green bean, pea + asparagus salad with vanilla vinaigrette

I’ll admit I’ve never felt strong feelings towards green beans, most likely something I’ve carried through from childhood. Surely the only green things children like are green snakes, green smarties, green leaves (yeah, not that spinach stuff, I mean the sugary spearmint leaves) and so on and so forth. I often scream with excitement when my children eat a couple of green peas (on the inside of course; on the outside I’m truly too scared to even breath or even move in case they sense my satisfaction and then proceed to spit it out and completely ruin my moment of triumph). So when my son saw me eating my vanilla greens, he was quite confused as to how it wasn’t in the shape of a cake. Can you blame him?

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I thought it was about time I put my big girl pants on and acquaint myself with green beans, because if I can love other green veggies, why not spread the love ’round? And if there’s a recipe for persuading even the most stubborn greens eater, this is the one. The warm vanilla vs the zingy apple cider vinegar vs the mint…it just works. These three greens go fabulously together but you can choose whatever you like, such as leek, snow peas or even just simple spinach. I’ve served this salad with fish and even red meat, but it is delicious in it’s own right, not to mention super healthy. It’s safe to say I won’t be neglecting the humble green bean anymore.

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green bean, asparagus + pea salad with vanilla vinaigrette – serves 1, or 2 as a side

you’ll need…

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • 100g green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder, or seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
  • handful of mint leaves, to serve

here’s what you do…

  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil and add a few pinches of salt. Once boiling, pop in your asparagus, beans and peas and put your timer on for 3 minutes (if your asparagus is quite thick, you might need to cook for longer, in which case put it in before the beans and peas and time accordingly). Drain and refresh in cold water.
  2. Meanwhile, for the dressing, combine the oil, vinegar and vanilla and season well.
  3. Assemble greens on the plate, slicing some asparagus spears and beans lengthways in half for presentation. Drizzle over the dressing, scatter with mint leaves and season accordingly.

chorizo, fennel + leek soup

I always felt cheated to have been born in June, the beginning of winter. It meant no pool parties for my birthday, not even a drop of sunshine. It meant no ice-cream cake, because who wants to eat frozen goods when they can’t feel their fingertips. It also meant no flaunting that cute summer dress you always wanted to wear to impress your high school crush. Basically, an all round miserable affair, when you’re 13.

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It rains, without fail, each year on the 23rd of June, as if Mother Nature is still quietly chuckling to herself. While I’d once frown at the thought of blustery birthdays, I adore them, becoming quietly introverted throughout the winter months. I love the change in daily habits, especially our eating, welcoming more heartier meals, such as rich soups and slow cooked stews. I never thought I’d convince myself to love winter, but I guess wisdom comes with age, right?

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Rich, warming and nourishing, this soup will get you through your coldest days, when you’re certain you lost a toe due to frostbite overnight. It’s a quick one too, taking around 30 minutes from prep to table. The key is to using a really good quality chorizo, as well as using homemade stock. The latter really is a non-negotiable – you’ll reap plenty more health benefits, not to mention its superior taste, compared to powdered/cubed stocks. You’ll find a recipe for chicken stock here, for which you can omit the celery, and replace with the leek and fennel tops for minimal wastage.

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chorizo, fennel + leek soup – serves 4-6 – loosely adapted from Woman’s Day – gluten free

you’ll need…

  • 1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 good quality chilli chorizo, halved lengthways and sliced
  • 1 small leek, white part only, sliced (reserve top for stock, if desired)
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly (reserve top for stock, if desired)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1.25L homemade/good quality chicken stock
  • 400g tin of chickpeas (or 1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, then simmered on stovetop for 1 hour and drained)
  • 1 bunch of silverbeet, leaves roughly chopped (stalks can be reserved for this fab recipe)
  • 4 very ripe roma tomatoes, chopped (if you cannot find ripe ones, 1 tin of tomatoes would be better than underripe tomatoes)
  • pepitas, for garnish + crunch factor

here’s what you do…

  1. Heat a large saucepan on high, adding oil and chorizo. Fry for a few minutes, until chorizo is crispy and golden.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low, adding leek, fennel and garlic. Fry gently for 10 minutes, or until fennel is softened and caramelised. Add paprika and fry for a further 1 minute, or until fragrant.
  3. Add chicken stock and chickpeas and bring to the boil. Simmer on low, covered, for 15 minutes. Season well.
  4. Add the silverbeet leaves and tomatoes, simmering for a further 4-5 minutes or until leaves are wilted. Serve drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and pepitas.

smoky eggplant dip (baba ghanouj)

I’m somewhat of a grazer, preferring to pick throughout the day or at least eat many small meals instead of few larger ones. Our dinner often consists purely of a handful of homemade dips, good quality cheese and dukkah with olive oil, with the leftovers making for the perfect lunch or between-meals snack the next day. Picking up a voluptuous eggplant at the markets this morning meant only one thing: smoky eggplant dip. Two reasons for this: I’m a big fan of said dip, and because preparing eggplant in any other fashion scares me stupid.

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I’ve been scarred many a time by my own failings in the kitchen involving a tough moussaka and a spongy curry, to name a few. Of all the vegetable friends I make in the kitchen, eggplant simply ain’t one of them. That and five years of vegetarianism ensuring I was limited to dishes containing what seemed to be the vegetarian’s ‘holy trinity’ (capsicum, zucchini and eggplant), not exactly my favourite flavour combination. I’m certain I simply need more practice with this purple gem, as my Nonna’s ‘melanzane parmigiana’ is one of my favourite things in her repertoire. But then again, if your Nonna is doing a fine job of said dish, shouldn’t I let sleeping dogs lie? I’ll stick with my baba ghanouj, thank you very much.

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smoky eggplant dip (baba ghanouj) – makes approx 1-1.5 cups – gluten free + vegan

you’ll need…

  • 1 large eggplant, halved lengthways
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • few tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, to smooth out the mix
  • salt and pepper, to taste

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat your grill to it’s highest setting. Place the two eggplant halves, skin side up, on a tray lined with foil. Grill until the skin is blackened and the flesh can be pierced easily with a skewer. The timing of this will vary depending on your grill and the size of your eggplant, but mine took roughly 30 minutes. Keep your eye on it, checking every 5 minutes or so.
  2. Allow the eggplant to cool slightly before scooping the flesh into your food processor. Add remaining ingredients except the oil and whiz, adding the oil 1 tbsp at a time whilst processor is running. Make sure you only add enough oil to smooth out the mixture, allowing for a creamy, homogenous dip.
  3. Season to taste, even adding more lemon or cumin if you wish. Serve drizzled with fresh olive oil and black sesame seeds, if you wish, alongside fresh, warm bread.

beetroot leaf, preserved lemon and goats curd pizza

I’d taken a liking to the gorgeous leaves adorning the top of my lucky find – the humble beetroot. I’d been scouring farmers markets, gourmet markets, black market vegetable traders (not really)…any kind of market, simply to get my hands on heirloom beets. Being so incredibly difficult to come across, I had all but given up when they appeared at my local Sunday farmer’s markets, sitting in their sun-scorched yellow glory. I promptly grabbed some along with the usual red kind, and had my way with them, roasting then turning them into a salad laden with hazelnuts and goats cheese, but I digress. The leaves attached to the beetroot bunches, more so the red beets, were the most gorgeous green with almost-iridescent red veins running through, and I couldn’t bear to throw them out. IMG_20150528_133302 A quick google and it turns out you can do so much with the leaves. Although they can be quite bitter tasting, cooking them negates this. They pair exceptionally well with the lemons and pine nuts, giving this pizza an almost Moroccan-esque feel. They’re also bursting at the seams with antioxidants, vitamins A and C for your immune system and vitamin K for your bones. They just look damn pretty too. Minimal prep is needed to make this pizza, as while the dough is proving you can prepare the topping and let it sit happily in the corner. The dough recipe is an absolute gem, and I recommend using bread flour for that extra stretchy dough, otherwise plain flour will suffice. We often make a double batch and freeze half for an impromptu pizza dinner when all inspiration is out the window. IMG_20150528_133609IMG_20150528_132804 beetroot leaf, preserved lemon and goats curd pizza – serves 2-3 as a meal, or 4 as an entree/snack

you’ll need…

pizza dough – adapted from The Cook’s Companion

  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200g bread/pizza flour, or plain flour
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

topping – adapted from Matthew Evans

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 130g beetroot leaves + stems, roughly shredded
  • 1/2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1/4 preserved lemon, rind only, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp goats curd

here’s what you do…

pizza dough

  1. Mix the yeast, salt and flour in a large bowl. Mix water with oil and beat into the ingredients. Knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic (I used my kitchenaid + dough hook on the second speed for 10min).
  2. Turn into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and place in a warm spot to prove for 1.5 hours or until doubled in size. Punch dough back, knead lightly in flour then allow to prove, covered with wrap, for a further 30 minutes. Roll the dough out to a 9 inch round (I prefer my base not too thin – but adapt it to your liking) and transfer to a lined baking tray or oiled pizza tray. Spread a teaspoon or so of olive oil on the base, leaving a 2cm margin around the edge, and set aside.

topping

  1. Preheat oven to 220C (200 Fan Forced). Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add onion and gently fry for 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and fennel seeds and fry for a further minute.
  2. Add the beetroot leaves and fry until wilted, then set aside. Season lightly.
  3. Spread beetroot leaf topping onto pizza, leaving the margin. Sprinkle on the pine nuts and preserved lemon.
  4. Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until crust starts to go golden brown. Top with goats curd.

honey roasted carrots, cumin yoghurt + macadamia dukkah

Although it is not truly winter here for another week or so, the cold weather is truly upon us and I’m craving warm foods, slow cooked meals and sticky honey chai by the bucketload. I’m always looking for new, healthy sides to nestle alongside my comfortingly juicy roast, and with keeping in the middle eastern theme that I had bestowed upon my lamb, these carrots were a perfect match. So simple, so healthy, and so tasty. And with their crazy-high antioxidant and vitamin A content (important for immune system and vision), what’s not to love?

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I picked up some purple carrots from the farmers markets, conjuring up dreams of colourful stained glass-esque patterns on my baking paper. Contrasted against the orange of the regular kind, purple carrots lend a gorgeous hue unlike no other. All you need to do is quarter them, drizzle over some oil and honey and bake away. I served them with a simple yoghurt and some dukkah I had lying in the fridge, and they all mingled well together. Any dukkah will pair well, and even plain yoghurt if you are short on time. I can even see these being a fantastic addition to a bowl of quinoa and chickpeas, for a simple midnight dinner. The possibilities are endless!

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honey roasted carrots, cumin yoghurt + macadamia dukkah – serves 4 as a side – GF

you’ll need…

honey roasted carrots

  • 5 carrots, quartered lengthways (3 purple, 2 orange, or whatever combo you prefer)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey

cumin yoghurt

  • 3 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin

macadamia dukkah (adapted from Claire K Creations)

  • 1 cup macadamias
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. For the dukkah, place the nuts on a baking tray lined with paper, and roast for 8-10 minutes, or until golden. Gently dry-roast the sesame seeds in a pan until golden, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Place the coriander and cumin seeds in the pan and gently toast until fragrant, then place in the food processor with the nuts. Mix in remaining ingredients then pulse to blitz slightly, being careful not to over-process the nuts. Place in sterilised jars and store in the fridge.
  2. Preheat oven to 200C (conventional oven). For the carrots, place them on a baking tray. Combine the oil and honey and season well, then drizzle over the carrots, dispersing well over each one. Roast for 25-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the carrots, until tender.
  3. For the cumin yoghurt, combine all ingredients in a bowl and season to taste. Set aside.
  4. To serve, drizzle yoghurt over the carrots and top with the dukkah. Make sure you scoop up the sticky-sweet juices from the baking tray and use it to drizzle over the carrots when serving.

chicken, kale + lemon soup (Jewish penicillin) // easy chicken stock recipe

It may not be quite the blustery winter weather here yet, but the nights cool down enough for me to saunter to the wine rack and stare longingly at a bottle of red. The change in seasons is comforting, bringing crisp mornings filled with blue skies and everlasting sunshine. You get the best of both worlds – the warm dressing gown and cup of tea in the morning, moderately warm days without blistering sunshine and nights cool enough you don’t need icepacks placed precariously on your body to simply romanticize the idea of sleep. Autumn, I love you (almost as much as spring, shh).

Chicken soup is magical. It’s been so named ‘Jewish penicillin’ for its ability to help reduce upper-respiratory inflammation, clearing up head colds, sneezes, sniffles etc. It’s not quite proven what exactly in chicken soup has such superpowers, but I know I feel better after a bowl of this. I’ve added the extra superpowers of kale and lemon to help you fight any nasties, and kept it free of noodles for extra lightness and for those who are gluten-intolerant. Feel free to add in noodles, rice or pasta to bulk it out, depending on your appetite. But of course, you need not be sick to make a bowl of this wonderful stuff.

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You start with making your own stock – a habit which you should definitely make regular. You’ll have about 1-1.5 litres left over, with which you can make risotto, drink as is, or simply freeze. If you’ve got homemade stock already (and I can’t stress enough how important it is to have the homemade stuff for this recipe) simply skip the stock-making process and add in a poached chicken breast – easy! Now, in terms of wine-pairing, I’m not sure this soup is traditionally paired with red, but who’s watching?

chicken, kale + lemon soup (Jewish penicillin) – serves approx 4, depending on appetite + add-ins – gluten + dairy free

you’ll need…

for the chicken stock – adapted from Bill Granger’s Everyday

  • 1 large organic chicken (or 1.5kg chicken bones)
  • 2 onions, skins intact, quartered
  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 leafy celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

for the soup – adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large or 4 small garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 2 carrots, cut diagonally into half-inch thick slices
  • 2 celery stalks, halved lengthways and cut into half-inch thick slices
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 litres homemade chicken stock
  • 2 cups shredded chicken leftover from stock (if you are using bones instead of a whole chicken to make the stock, simply bring a small pot of water to the boil, place a large chicken breast in ensuring there is enough water to cover it, turn off the heat and cover for 25 minutes then shred)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 60g shredded kale
  • for serving, extra virgin olive oil and cracked pepper

here’s what you do…

for the chicken stock

  1. Place all ingredients into a large stockpot and pour over 4 litres of cold water. Slowly bring to the boil, then simmer for 2.5-3 hours.
  2. Strain stock, shredding and reserving chicken and discarding vegetables. If using chicken bones instead, discard these also. Refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for a few months.

for the soup

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf, stirring for 5 minutes or until softened.
  2. Pour in the stock, bringing it to the boil. Add in the chicken and season well. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. At this point, you can add noodles, pasta or rice in with the vegetables, if you so wish.
  3. Add kale and lemon zest and juice, and turn off heat. The residual heat is all you need to soften the kale – we don’t want mush! Serve steaming hot drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh cracked pepper.

pea + ricotta fritters with avocado salsa

Nothing beats a light lunch. Especially after you’ve been devouring hot cross buns all morning. There’s something about green meals that can magically undo any cheeky over-indulging you may have done in recent days. And as I hang onto the last of the fleeting summer days, this meal is light enough to sustain you for a warm day’s lunch or it can be paired with poached eggs for a cool morning’s breakfast. Take your pick!

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The recipe calls for firm ricotta, and as that seemed harder to find than a rainbow’s leprechaun guarding his gold, I settled for the soft stuff, and the results were pillowy, golden fritters that worked well. Mundella is my brand of choice – no weird additives or preservatives. These beauties are protein rich from the cheese and peas, as well as boasting plenty of healthy fats from the avocado plus vitamin C from the tomatoes. And remember, opt for full fat dairy as it’s less processed, and the fat is vital to absorb the vitamin D present.

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pea + ricotta fritters with avocado salsa – adapted from Coles – serves 3/4 for a light lunch, or 2 for a more substantial meal

you’ll need…

  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 free-range egg, lightly beaten
  • 350g fresh ricotta
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
  • 1/4 (35g) cup plain flour
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 1 avocado, ripe but fairly firm, stoned, peeled, chopped
  • 200g cherry/grape tomatoes
  • 1 tbs lime juice, plus zest of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, plus extra for serving
  • black sesame seeds

here’s what you do…

  1. Cook the peas for 2 minutes in boiling water, or until tender. Drain, and add half to a large mixing bowl. Mash coarsely, then add in whole peas, egg, ricotta, parmesan and flour. Mix to combine, and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 1 tblsp of oil per batch, ensuring the pan never smokes. With the pan on medium heat, place 1/4 cup of batter in the pan for each fritter, frying 3 per batch. Cook for 3 minutes or until golden, then flip and cook for another 2 minutes or until golden. Keep the fritters rather compact instead of spreading them out thinly, which ensures they stay together.
  3. For the salsa, combine the avocado, tomatoes, lime juice and zest and mint leaves, tossing to combine. Season well, finishing with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds.
  4. To serve, place 2-3 fritters on each plate (depending on how many people you are serving), top with mint leaves and a squeeze of lime, and serve with the salsa.