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.
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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.

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.