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.

Sourdough Bread – how I make it

I have been making my own sourdough bread for almost 3 years now and it really makes ordinary bread seem quite inferior. This loaf below was the very first loaf I made:

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Over these past few years, I have had dozens of requests for my sourdough recipe, so here it is. There are plenty of sourdough recipes out there and confusing as to where to start as the world of sourdough can be a bit daunting, but why not take this time of isolation to do something that is a little time consuming and make your own delicious creations. The whole process takes about a day and a half but the actual hands on time is very limited.

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Making sourdough had always been on my to do list, but I didn’t know where to start, how to make a starter, would it work, would it not. This was all until one of my clients gave me some of her starter and I had no choice, I had to keep it alive, so I did. I fed it and I used it and I fed it some more and it is still going strong. Making your own starter will take about 1 week and here is a straight forward way to make your own starter with some helpful pics to guide you.

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Sourdough is a science. You will need a set of kitchen scales as you will find that all the recipes use grams of water, which is not commonly seen when cooking, but don’t be tempted to guess or use millilitres. The proportion of water to flour is important, especially when making and feeding your starter. It needs to be the same. The pictures below are of a starter that has just been fed (top two) and one that has been fed and allowed to become active over a few hours (bottom two). Note the bubbles in the active starter, this indicates that the starter is ready to be used.IMG_8583IMG_8584IMG_85825r90j

 

Feeding and storing your starter:

If you are baking loaves regularly, keep your starter at room temperature and feed it daily by adding equal parts flour and water. I usually add 15g of each. Once it is bubbling nicely it is ready to be used. Another way to test its readiness is to place a small spoonful into a glass of water and if it floats, you’re good to go.

You only need to keep about 1/4 cup of starter at any one time unless you are planning on making multiple loaves at once. Sourdough bakeries will keep litres on hand but this is not at all needed for the home baker. If you are storing your starter at room temperature and feeding regularly, you will need to discard some starter each time you feed it, unless you are baking a loaf. Discarding half will be adequate.

If you only bake one loaf per week, you can store your starter in the fridge in a glass jar. It will then need the time to warm back to room temperature and be fed before using it and then fed again before placing back into the fridge. You may find if you store the starter the fridge that after a few days a vinegary smelling liquid forms on top. This is normal, just pour this off and feed the starter again.

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Over the years I have made an array of loaves, including, wholegrain, wholemeal spelt, fig and walnut, fruit sourdough, olive sourdough, but my regular go to is a wholemeal loaf, detailed below.

Enjoy xx.

Pre-ferment/Levain

  • 50g wholemeal flour
  • 50g water
  • 30g starter that has been recently fed and is active (bubbly)

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well to combine, cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 8+ hours. The picture below is what the levain should look like after 8 hours, smooth, sticky and starting to bubble.

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Bulk Ferment

  • 300g wholemeal flour
  • 200g white baker’s flour
  • 375g water
  • 15g salt
  1. Add all ingredients to the levain, which has been sitting for at least 8 hours and is now starting to bubble. Mix well, cover and leave to sit for 1 hour.
  2. After one hour, use a wet hand to loosen the dough from the bowl and grab the right side of the dough and fold it into the middle, then fold the left side into the middle, the top side into the middle and the bottom side into the middle. Lift the whole loaf and flip it over. Cover the bowl and leave to sit for another 2 hours. To see a video of how this fold it to be carried out, there is a video with the whole sourdough process on my instagram account @whatspruecooking.
  3. Over the next 2 hours, every 30 minutes, repeat the same fold.

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Shaping the dough

  1. After 2 hours, scoop the dough from the bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface. Grab one side of the dough and fold it into the middle, work your way around the dough until you have formed a rough ball then flip the loaf over.
  2. With floured hands, cup the dough where it meets the bench and turn the loaf to form a nice ball shape. The dough may start to slightly stick to the bench here, this is ok as the aim is to create some surface tension, which is essential to shaping the dough.
  3. Place the bowl upside down over the shaped loaf and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. While the dough is resting, prepare your brotformen (sourdough proving basket – see picture below) by sprinkling it with plenty of flour, getting into all the grooves. If you don’t have a brotformen, line a medium sized bowl with a tea towel and sprinkle and rub at least 1/4 cup of flour into it.IMG_00C2FDE24295-1
  5. To carry out the final shaping, flour your hands, scoop the dough and flip it back over. Repeat the same fold as in step 4 and 5, except when you are turning the loaf to form the ball make sure there is not too much flour where you are working as the formation of surface tension is essential for keeping the shape of the dough and sealing it.
  6. Once you have formed a nice tight ball, invert the dough into the prepared proving basket (ie. the side of the dough that was on the bench when you are forming the ball is now facing up).
  7. Cover the dough with cling wrap and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 6-8 hours.

Baking the dough

  1. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature, 30-45 minutes.
  2. Place a large crockpot, with a lid, that will fit your loaf in it into the oven and heat the oven to 240°C.
  3. Flip the dough out of the proving basket and onto a piece of baking paper. The top of the dough should be covered with flour from the proving basket. Using a sharp knife, score the top of the dough. This will allow the steam to escape and for the loaf to rise. Without scoring the dough, the loaf will blow out the side while baking. The score can be 2 lines down the centre of the loaf, a square or a criss cross pattern – there’s no wrong or right.
  4. Carefully remove the crockpot from the oven and take the lid off. Lift and lower the dough and baking paper into the pot and replace the lid. Return the pot to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  5. After 25-30 minutes, remove the lid from the crockpot and if the loaf has risen nicely then return to the oven, without the lid, lower the oven temperature to 220°C and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the loaf has a nice golden brown colour. If the loaf has not yet risen, return the lid to the pot and cook for a further 5 minutes before removing the lid.
  6. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 1 hour before slice, if you can resist it. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped.
  7. Enjoy with a generous slather of butter!IMG_2819

Timeline for baking a loaf:

To bake a loaf on Saturday:

  • Thursday night – take your starter out of the fridge and feed it.
  • Friday morning – Make your pre-ferment or levain and leave to sit for 8+ hours.
  • Friday afternoon/evening – Do your bulk ferment, folding the loaf every 30-40 minutes for 3 hours.
  • Friday night – Place the loaf into a proving basket/tea towel lined bowl and allow to prove in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Saturday morning – remove the loaf from the fridge and allow 45 minutes for it to come to room temperature and bake the loaf.

When I am making my sourdough loaves, I will usually do the bulk ferment between 6-9pm. This has often resulted in me giving the loaves a couple of folds and then once the kids are in bed, sitting on the couch with a cup of tea or glass of wine or folding the washing and then 2 hours later realising I haven’t folded it again. In these instances, the bread has still worked and is still tasty but isn’t as amazing as one that has been given all the TLC a loaf of sourdough needs.

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Slow Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

What a crazy time it is that we are all living in….Coronavirus, halting our lives, forcing us to stay home and slow down. An inconvenience or a blessing in disguise?img_5773-e1496487456421

We have been self-isolating for two weeks now, leaving the house to go to the shops, to exercise or go to work. The kids haven’t ventured out of our suburb in two weeks and were actually shocked when I bought home some Easter eggs from the supermarket the other day as they haven’t come shopping with me since before all the easter stock was front and centre!IMG_7766

With a little more time on our hands, I’ve been trying to think up recipes that I can share that are delicious and suitable for working from home lunches or dinners, which don’t take too long to prepare, yet are not suitable for taking to work. This slow roasted tomato bruschetta is exactly that. It requires about 5-10 minutes hands on time, yet requires time in the oven to roast – perfect to be put on mid morning and roast away while you get back to work.

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Our garden has been producing tomatoes in abundance over the past 6 or so weeks. Elise loves to eat the cherry tomatoes as they are and I have been making Passata with the larger ones, but we are still over flowing with cherry tomatoes, so this is a great dish to use up a chunk of tomatoes if you have an excess. We’ve had it a couple of times now and it is really makes a traditional bruschetta look quite inferior. The kids have enjoyed it too.

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Hope you’re all surviving this weird and wonderful time. Remember to sit back and embrace the extra time you have as it won’t last forever.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Makes 4 slices

  • 400g cherry tomatoes, some halved
  • 2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
  • Zest of 1/2 a lemon, coarsely grated
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 large handful of basil leaves
  • Feta, to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 140°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the tomatoes into a bowl and add the thyme, lemon zest, oil, balsamic vinegar and a good grind of salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
  3. Place onto baking tray and slow roast for 45-50 minutes.
  4. Once roasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Toast the bread and drizzle with olive oil. Top each slice with 1/4 of the tomato mixture. Top with some torn basil leaves and crumbled feta.
  6. Serve as is or with a poached egg.

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.

Roast Cauliflower and Cannellini Bean Soup

A cold Winter’s day call for a nice bowl of warm, filling and nourishing soup, and with Cauliflower in season, what better soup to make than a Roast Cauliflower and Cannellini Bean Soup.

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I do already have a Creamy Bacon and Cauliflower Soup on my blog, which is very popular, and super delicious, but if you are looking for a wholesome meat free cauliflower soup, then this is the one for you. The addition of the cannellini beans adds a quality source of plant based protein, helping to increase satiety and assist with muscle repair and growth, as well as being a rich soluble fibre source. Legumes, pulses and beans are often a forgotten group of foods, especially for meat eaters, which is a shame as they are a nutritional powerhouse. I am trying to include these into my cooking and our meals on a more regular basis.

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Cauliflower is a vegetable which belongs to the brassica family, the same family as broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage. It is very low in calories and a good source of fibre, which is important for digestive health, and antioxidants, such as vitamin C, which helps to boost the immune system and improve heart health. By roasting the cauliflower prior to making this soup, enhances the flavour of the cauliflower and provides a deep caramelised flavour, which pairs really well with the parmesan cheese that is added at the end.

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We have had this batch of cauliflower soup with some Pumpkin, Cheese and Rosemary Scones, a Not Quite Nigella recipe, which is linked here. These scones are light, fluffy and oh so flavoursome – definitely worth a try. If you’re not into scones, a nice crusty piece of bread with some butter works nicely, or even the soup on it’s own makes a great meal.

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The kids ate some of this soup. I wouldn’t say they loved it, but they ate it (except Elise, who threw her bowl on the floor…she is only 17 months, so I won’t take it to heart)! Despite this, I will continue to make soups like this and keep offering to the kids, and one day (hopefully) they will really enjoy them, and ask for a second bowl. Persistence and food exposure is key when it comes to kids.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 red onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 cups of broccoli florets
  • 1 tin cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the cauliflower florets into a bowl, drizzle with 2 tbs of olive oil and place onto the baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat, add remaining olive oil and onion and cook, stirring regularly for 6-7 minutes or until soft, translucent and golden brown. Add garlic and thyme and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the roasted cauliflower, broccoli florets, stock, cannelini beans, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Allow to cool slightly.
  5. Using a stick blender, blend the soup until smooth. Add the cheese, milk, nutmeg and lemon juice and blend until incorporated.
  6. Serve topped with some fresh chives.

Making the perfect lunch box

The perfect lunch box! Does such a thing exist? Of course it does!

The perfect lunchbox is the one that any parent puts together to send with their child to school or kinder. It doesn’t have to be packed full of homemade, raw, organic treats that you have spent the whole weekend trying to prepare even though you hate cooking. All the perfect lunchbox needs to be is food that nourishes your child’s body, provides their brain with enough glucose to concentrate, and adequate fuel to get them through the day.

Yes, I love cooking and I love baking and we always have several home made options on offer at any given time, but I appreciate that not everyone is lucky enough to have the time to prepare such foods, nor do most people enjoy it as much as I do. Plenty of families have 2 working parents, leaving time for dinner and lunch preparation and not a lot else, so I am not suggesting that you spend every spare second in the kitchen, but if you do have a spare half an hour, start by making a batch of picklets or muffins. These all freeze exceptionally well and if you make a double batch, you’ll have a good supply that will last a good 1-2 weeks. If you’re choosing to make some of my muffins or pikelets, choose the ones with berries rather than grated apple or carrot as they are less time consuming.

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What do kids really need at school?

A morning tea for most kids should consist of some form of fruit or vegetable. Whether that’s a whole piece of fruit, cut up fruit or even a fruit cup (in natural juice not syrup), it doesn’t matter. If you kids like veggie sticks by themselves, it’s a great way to get some extra veggies into them. Next, a source of protein to help to keep them going until lunchtime. This can be some hummus, or other, dip, with some wholegrain crackers, some yoghurt or cheese or some roasted chickpeas or fava beans. You can roast your own, or the supermarkets and whole food shops sell them – my kids LOVE them! If your child is at high school, and nuts are allowed, nuts are also a great option. A home baked pikelet, muffin, muesli bar, bliss ball or slice is a great option here as well.

Lunch should consist of 3 main things: Carbohydrates, Protein and Vegetables. A ham, cheese and tomato or cheese and vegemite sandwich on wholegrain bread is a perfectly nutritious option for a quick throw together sandwich. Add in a container of veggie sticks to add in the extra nutrients. If you have a bit more time to prepare and freeze some lunch options, things like fritters, zucchini slice, savoury muffins or sushi are excellent options. If you have some time to prepare lunch fresh, a protein and salad sandwich or wrap is a great option. As long as there is some form of protein (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese or bean/legume), carbohydrate (bread, rice, pasta, other wholegrain or potato) and some vegetables, your child will be set!

Most (primary) schools don’t like nuts being brought to school, which is quite disappointing as so many awesome snack recipes have nuts. However, if I had a child with an anaphylactic reaction to nuts, I would be pleased that such policies exist. As a result of this, I have been trying to adapt some of my nut filled snacks, such as muesli bars and bliss balls, so that they use seeds in place of the nuts. For the most part, they work quite well without the nuts. I will just have to save these nut filled snacks for afternoon tea.

If you’ve made it through this first week or so of school and have been scrounging the back of the pantry for things to fill lunchboxes, then set aside some time this weekend to do some lunchbox preparation. Make a batch of zucchini slice and fritters and pop them in the freezer and lunches will be sorted for the week! Add to this a batch of muffins or nut free muesli bars and snacks are sorted too. All you’ll need to do of a morning is grab some of each of these and a piece of fruit and/or some veggies and you’re set for next week, or longer.

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Hope this provides some inspiration xx.

 

Tuna and Bean Nicoise Style Salad

First of all, apologies for my absence in posting new recipes, but the holiday season and lack of routine has left me trying recipes out of new cookbooks I have been given or making quick meals, therefore, not coming up with anything creative and worthy of posting, but I’m back and will be aiming to post new recipes a little more frequently, as well as hoping to make a start on my cookbook this year!

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Tuna and beans (from a tin) are 2 ingredients which are highly nutritious and can be used as a meal in themselves or added to other amazing ingredients to make something really special, such as this salad.

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My inspiration for this salad came from an Instagram post from one of my oldest friends and ex-housemate. She was given a whole heap of tomatoes from her neighbour on a 40 degree day and mixed them with beans, tuna and pickled onions and lunch was sorted! This set my tastebuds tingling, so I sought out what we had in the vegetable garden and added a few more ingredients to the base, along with a dressing and thus we have this salad. Perfect as a meal by itself or you can omit the tuna and serve as a salad at a BBQ.

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Tuna, or other oily fish (salmon, sardines, cod) should be eaten three times per week to get the required amount of essential fatty acids the body needs. As most people wouldn’t eat whole or filleted fish three times per week, tinned fish is not only convenient, it also makes reaching this target more achievable. Tinned tuna is great for a snack and also a great addition to a salad to make it into a meal. My favourite tinned tuna is Sirena tuna as it’s not as fishy or cat food like as some of the other brands. Essential fatty acids, or omega 3s are really important for brain and heart health and have also been shown to improve mental health when consumed regularly, as well as decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease.

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You can use any beans for this salad. Four bean mix, borlotti, chickpeas, butter beans, cannellini beans, red kidney beans, whichever you feel like using. The beans I used, on this particular occasion, were chosen by Mark and Claire (who loved the salad by the way). If you prefer to soak your own beans then feel free to do so. Beans are a great source of fibre and non-animal protein, making them a really good choice for vegetarians and vegans to help to get adequate protein in the diet. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you would obviously omit the tuna from this recipe and the feta.

Enjoy xx.

 

Ingredients:

Serves 5

  • 2 x 400g tins beans (I used butter beans and cannellini beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 cob of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100g green beans, ends trimmed, blanched and cut into thirds
  • 1/2 lebanese cucumber, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 50g olives, roughly chopped
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2/3 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 an avocado, cubed
  • 50g feta, crumbled
  • 190g tin Sirena tuna, oil drained

Dressing:

  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp capers, chopped

Method:

  1. Slice the onion as thinly as you can (a mandolin works well here) and place into a small bowl along with the white wine vinegar. Mix well and set aside for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Place the rinsed beans in a large bowl, along with the corn kernels, tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, olives, spring onion and parsley. Mix well to combine.
  3. Prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients into a small bowl and stirring well to combine.
  4. Add the avocado and feta to the beans, pour the dressing over the top and gently toss to allow the dressing to spread through the salad.
  5. Place into a serving dish or onto plates and top with tuna.

Summer Entertaining

Over the weekend, we had some good friends over for a festive season get together. Every year, we catch  up with these friends to celebrate, have a drink and most importantly, share some delicious food.

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I thought I would share our delicious dishes that we created this year, to provide some inspiration for the festive season with some simple, tasty dishes to share with family and friends.

Starters:

Labne Balls with Cranberries and Pistachio Nuts.

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This was the first time I have made labne and it is so delicious and easy. It is commonly eaten more as a dip, but these festive flavoured labne balls were a little bit special. Labne is simply Greek style yoghurt mixed with some salt and strained through a muslin cloth for 12+ hours to remove the whey protein. This leaves a thick yoghurt with a soft goats cheese consistency. I added a small amount of lemon zest and some chilli flakes (only a few as I knew small people would be eating these). After rolling into balls, I rolled them in chopped cranberries and pistachio nuts.

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Baked Camembert.

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If you haven’t tried baked camembert, it is truly amazing! Rich, gooey and delicious! Don’t waste your money getting the most expensive French triple cream camembert as it will be wasted. Any camembert will work well. If you do not have a suitable dish to bake the cheese in, make sure you choose a camembert in a wooden container that is stapled, NOT glued, as the glue will melt and you will have cheese all through the oven.

To make this beautiful cheese:

  1. Score the top of the cheese in a diamond pattern and stick a sprig of rosemary in each of the intersections.
  2. Bake for 10 minutes in a 180°C oven.
  3. While the cheese is cooking, chop 1 tbs of walnuts
  4. Once cooked, remove from the oven, drizzle with 1 tbs of honey and sprinkle the walnuts on top.
  5. Serve with crackers or thin slices of toasted bread.

Potted Salmon:

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Our lovely friends brought round this tasty salmon dish. It does involve clarifying butter, which actually isn’t as daunting as it may sound and is well worth it. The flavours of salmon, dill, capers and lemon work so well together in this yummy starter and can be served with fresh bread, crackers or toasted baguette.

Baked Samosas Cigars.

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These fill wrapped, Indian inspired, vegetarian cigars were also brought by our lovely guests. These were particularly popular with the kids and had chickpeas and plenty of flavoursome spice in them. They were served with a mango dip and a raita type dip.

Mains:

Smoked Rainbow Trout Salad.

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I have made this salad many a time and it is very loosely based on this salad from the Gourmet Traveller magazine. I am going to save my version for my cookbook!

Aaron cooks the fish on the BBQ with is smoker box, which gives an amazing subtle smoky flavour to the fish, and when mixed with the freshness of the Spring vegetables, fresh herbs and kipfler potatoes, it is definitely a crowd pleaser.

Corn, Mint & Pecorino Salad.

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If you want a super, quick and easy salad that is a taste sensation, then I highly recommend this corn salad. The recipe is originally from a restaurant in Byron Bay and has corn, mint, pecorino cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper as its ingredients! The corn needs to be char grilled, which can done on the BBQ, a the recipe suggests or under the grill or in a frypan. So light and fresh, it will accompany seafood so perfectly this festive season.

Barbecued Prawns with Honey and Sesame.

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These prawns were yet another Gourmet Traveller recipe, this time from this months Christmas edition, which means the online recipe isn’t yet available, so if you want the recipe, you’ll need to buy the magazine. They require the marinating of the prawns over night, but the marinade is simple, as is the cooking process and the cooked prawn is then just sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and drizzled with honey. So tasty!

Dessert

Cardomom, Rose and Gingerbread  Cake.

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I stumbled across this cake in my Instagram feed and I’m so glad I did. From a website called cardamom and tea, it is a simple cake that has to be one of the best cakes I have ever eaten. I would never have thought to pair gingerbread spices with rose water, but wow, what a combination. Whether it be for a Christmas party or a birthday, it is one cake that should not be overlooked!

I hope that this post has provided some inspiration for this busy and delicious time of the year.

Merry Christmas! Xx

Asparagus and Goats Cheese Tart

I love asparagus and I love that it’s back in season. We have been having it regularly as it’s so cheap at the moment. Next year, we will grow our own!!

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I don’t know what brought me to the flavour combination in this tart, but it’s so good. And you can arrange the asparagus on top to make it look really pretty. Perfect for entertaining! I have added in a whole heap of spinach, which wilts down to not much, which adds a great source of iron, making this an excellent choice for vegetarians. With the good amount of vegetables in this tart, it can be had by itself or served with a simple side salad.

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I made a shortcrust pastry, which is really simple, but you can use bought puff or shortcrust pastry. The combination of the eggs, dill and asparagus work really well together and the caramelised leeks enhance these flavours.

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Mark has expressed his like for asparagus this year, which makes me happy, so he loves this, and Claire, the 2 times we have had it, turns her nose up at it initially, but ends up happily finishing her piece. Even Elise enjoyed it but found the texture of the spinach a bit strange.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Pastry

  • 240g plain flour
  • 180g butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • pinch of salt

Filling

  • 3 leeks, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 cups spinach, chopped
  • 6 eggs
  • 100mL cream
  • 150mL milk
  • 2 tbs dill, chopped
  • 60g goats cheese
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, halved lengthways
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. To make the pastry, place the flour, butter and salt into a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. With the motor running, slowly add the water until the mixture comes together. Remove from the food processor and flatten out to a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C and prepare a 25cm pie dish
  4. Remove from the fridge and roll out to a diameter of around 32cm. Place into a pie dish, allowing at least a 2cm overhang. Return to the fridge for 20 minutes.
  5. Cover the pastry with baking paper and place baking beads or dried beans on the baking paper to blind bake.
  6. Place into the oven for 15 minutes then remove the baking paper and baking beads and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  7. While the pastry is cooking, heat a medium sized frypan over medium heat. Add 1 tbs of olive oil and add the leek and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes, allowing them to caramelise. Add the chopped spinach and cover, allowing it to wilt. Allow to cool slightly and place into the pastry case.
  8. Break the goats cheese into small pieces and place on top of the spinach mix.
  9. In a jug, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, dill, salt and pepper. Pour over the spinach mix.
  10. Arrange asparagus on top of the egg mix and place into the oven to bake for 40 minutes or until the egg mixture is set.
  11. Serve warm or cold.

Zucchini Slice

Zucchini slice is an easy and convenient meal for the whole family. A meal that I grew up eating and one I am now feeding my family.

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With a baby who has recently started solids in the house, finding meals that all 5 of us can eat can be tricky, which leaves me preparing meals for Elise (8 months) and she ends up eating the same thing several days in a row. I made this zucchini slice the other day for the first time in over a year and she LOVED it! As did the older 2, although I did sell it to them as egg and bacon slice, mainly because they think they don’t like zucchini (even though they eat it ALL the time)…next time we have it, I am going to ask them to tell me what they think is in it and all will be revealed!

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Zucchini slice is a very nutritious meal. It’s a great source of protein, from the eggs, bacon and cheese, it’s full of veggies – I have used zucchini, carrot, onion and corn, but you can also use sweet potato, which provide plenty of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre. It can be enjoyed both warm or cold, it freezes superbly and is great for a picnic or in lunch boxes. When we have had this, I have served it with a side salad as the kids are loving salads at the moment, but it is nutritionally balanced so is fine to have on its own.

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This recipe uses self raising flour, but if you are after a gluten free option, I would recommend using almond meal in place of the flour and add 1 teaspoon of baking powder. You could also use a gluten free self raising flour if desired.

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Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bacon rashers, fat trimmed and diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated and excess moisture squeezed out
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 cob of corn, kernels removed
  • 100g tasty or cheddar cheese, grated
  • 50g feta, crumbled
  • 1 tbs chives, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup SR flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tomato, sliced (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 20cm x 25cm slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Heat a medium sized frypan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally for ~ 5 minutes.
  3. Once the zucchini has been grated, remove excess moisture by placing into a sieve and squeeze/press the zucchini into the sieve. Quite a lot of moisture will come out.
  4. Place zucchini, carrot, corn, herbs, cheeses and flour into a large bowl and mix. Add the bacon and onion and mix.
  5. Crack the eggs into another bowl, add the milk and salt and pepper and lightly beat.
  6. Add the egg mix to the vegetable mix and mix well to combine.
  7. Pour into prepared tray and top with slices of tomato and bake for ~35 minutes or until it bounces back when touched lightly.
  8. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into squares and serving as is or with a salad.

This will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator or will freeze exceptionally well for up to 3 months.