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.

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.
spiced apple and kale salad with poached chicken

spiced apple + kale salad with poached chicken

I love kale. Partly because its ridiculously good for you (antioxidant rich, anti-inflammatory, cousins with broccoli and cauliflower) but its versatile, and doesn’t mind being hurled into a smoothie or lovingly massaged to become part of a salad such as this one. It’s the latest ‘in’ thing. Love it, or hate it, but I urge you to do the former. Sure, kale does require a bit of extra TLC in the prep department, but don’t let that put you off – kale stays super crispy in the fridge, so you can make a double batch and this baby will keep smiling for at least a couple of days. No reason not to eat healthy, right? Except if you’re going through a break up, in which case, put this down and arm yourself with the nearest chocolate brownie. Shhh, it’ll be our little secret!

This juicy number is from the latest Woolworth’s food mag, which I don’t read often but this one stood out. Super simple, tasty, full of anti-inflammatory turmeric, quercetin-rich (good for your allergies), and a little bit exotic, there isn’t much this salad can’t do except maybe read you a bedtime story. Here, I’ve topped it with shredded, poached chicken for a super-healthy protein punch.

spiced apple and kale salad with poached chicken

spiced apple and kale salad with poached chicken

spiced apple + kale salad (adapted from the Woolies Fresh Mag)

you’ll need…

  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tbs avocado oil (I used EVOO)
  • 2 apples (I used Pink Lady’s)
  • 1/2 bunch kale, tough inner rib of stalk removed and leaves shredded
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped roughly
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 tbs currants (I used sultanas)
  • mint and parsley, to serve
  • poached chicken breast, if desired
here’s what you do…
1. whisk lemon juice, honey and curry powder together, then slowly add in oil. season.
2. quarter, core and slice apples thinly, then toss in dressing to prevent browning.
3. drain dressing on top of sliced kale in large bowl, and massage for 3-4 min or until kale is softened. add in pecans, spring onions, celery and currants and toss to combine.
4. add apple and herbs (don’t be shy with the herbs), finally topping with poached chicken
if using poached chicken, here’s how you do it…
1. place chicken breast in saucepan (if its accompanying a salad, I normally work it out to be 1/2 chicken breast/person). cover with stock (and any other flavourings you desire i.e. spices, herbs, lemon etc) and bring to the boil
2. once boiling, cover with lid and take off the heat, letting it sit for 25 min.
3. check your chicken is cooked – should be slightly pink, lovely and moist! you can then shred or slice it on top of your salad. enjoy!