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Home made baked beans

Canned baked beans….meh. They’re great for a quick and convenient snack, but beware – the average can of beans has 21g of sugar. It is simple to make your own, you then know exactly what goes into them, and you can also mix up your beans if you like. You don’t have to use haricot, you can use cannelini, pinto, navy, any type you like or a mixture.

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My recipe uses chorizo, you can also use bacon if you don’t like the strong flavour of chorizo, or if you are vegetarian, you can leave out the meat and up the flavour stakes with additional herbs and spices. This recipe makes enough for 4 serves for dinner or approx 6 batches of smaller lunch-time serves. Quite an easily portable snack too. You can also serve more people at dinner by adding other ingredients to the plate such as toast, cheese, eggs, sausages, chips, hash browns and sauteed mushrooms.

Ingredients:

2 x 400g cans of beans of your choice (you can also use dried beans if you soak them overnight)

1 x 400g can of diced tomatoes (or about 6 large Roma or Truss tomatoes skinned and chopped)

1 average sized onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, very thinly sliced or chopped

1 chorizo chopped into small dice, or two to three rashers of smoked bacon diced

1 teaspoon of Worcester sauce

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

1 teaspoon of smoked paprika

Half a teaspoon of cumin powder

1 teaspoon of mixed herbs, dried, fresh or freeze dried

1 teaspoon of vegetable stock powder

salt/pepper/sugar to taste

Method:

Prepare the chopped ingredients

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If using canned beans, drain them:

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Fry the chorizo (or bacon) in a few tablespoons of olive oil until it is slightly crispy and the fat has rendered.

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Add the onions and garlic

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Once the onion begins to soften add the flavourings – mustard, cumin, paprika, herbs, Worcester sauce, stock powder.

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Stir everything to combine well and then add the tomatoes.

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Half fill the tomato can with water, swirl it to rinse the last bits of tomato and add it to the pan.

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Add the beans, but try not to stir them too much (this tends to mush them up. Shake them around the pan.

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Leave to cook for 20 – 30 minutes until the beans are soft enough to eat. Add salt and pepper to taste. You shouldn’t need to add sugar, but if you do, consider adding some honey or agave syrup instead of granulated sugar.

Serve in a bowl with fresh crusty bread and some grated cheese. So simple and tasty that you’ll probably never buy cans of baked beans again.

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Crustless mini quiches

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These mini quiches are lower in carbohydrate content and dairy casein than regular quiches. They use ricotta which has hardly any casein protein in it and little mature cheddar for some extra cheesy flavour. I baked mine in a larger size muffin tray, but you can make them mini muffin size or regular muffin size and reduce the cooking time slightly. Cooking times vary from oven to oven, but you know they are perfect when they are just very slightly wobbly in the centre.

They are ideal for a quick brekkie, and if you don’t have muffin cases, you can use squares of baking parchment and scrunch them into the muffin tray indents.

Other than the cheese, you can put whatever you like in them. I dry fried some bacon, mushrooms and onion and added it before baking them, but you can use anything. Here are some suggestions:

broccoli
peas
sun dried tomatoes
cauliflower florets
spinach
prosciutto
small pieces of sausage
capsicum
pieces of butternut pumpkin
Just make sure that all of the extra filling ingredients are cooked or part-cooked beforehand so that you don’t get any raw veg or meats in your quiche !

Ingredients (makes 4 large muffins):

Mixed pre-cooked filling – see above
3 eggs
salt
pepper
1 teaspoon mixed herbs (dried) e.g. basil, sage, oregano, thyme, mint, coriander
I used a standard dried herb mix, but you can also use fresh or choose the herbs separately
50-70g ricotta cheese (depending on how much you like it and how much filling you have)
approx. a third of a cup of finely grated cheddar

Mix together the eggs, salt, pepper, herbs and ricotta – give it a good whisk with and electric whisk to make it as light as possible. The mixture might look a bit strange, but it will turn out fine.
Stir in the pre-cooked filling and most of the cheese – save a little cheese for on top.
Place mixture in muffin cases and sprinkle extra cheese on top.

Bake at 190 deg C for approx. 20 – 25 minutes.

 

 

Home made granola

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Do you know exactly what goes into your breakfast cereal ? The regular supermarket cereals tend to be full of sugar and additives, and the more sophisticated cereals are expensive for what you get.

Making your own granola is easy and cheaper. You get exactly what you want and it tastes great with yoghurt and berries on top. It’s portable – you can put some granola, yoghurt and berries in a jar and take them into work for an easy desk breakfast. I have a long journey so I pop some frozen berries on top (cherries, blueberries) and by the time I get to work the berries have thawed.

Start by lining an oven tray with baking parchment and set your oven to approx 150 deg C.

Now the fun bit – you can make it up as you go along. If you are allergic to nuts, leave the nuts out, if you are allergic to oats, leave the oats out. Choose from any of the following, but don’t add any chocolate chips or dried fruit at this stage because they will melt and burn. You just need nuts seeds and grains at this time. Generally, oats form the major part of the base, but if you are allergic to oats try something different like plain puffed rice. Grab a large bowl and get mixing – I generally use the following:

Porridge oats (steel cut) 1-2 cups
Puffed rice with no added sugar 1-2 cups
As much as you fancy of:
sunflower seeds
pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
pine nuts
chia seeds
flax seeds
sliced almonds
shredded coconut
peanuts
walnuts
pistachios
hazelnuts
pecans
This is just a guide – you can use any nuts and seeds that you like

Stir through some coconut oil and honey (approx 4 tablespoons)
Spread it all out on the baking parchment  – the thinner the layer, the quicker it will toast – and stir through every ten minutes. It should take about 30 minutes to toast nicely, and it will be a lovely golden colour. Leave to cool.

Now you can transfer it to a plastic cereal container but beforehand you can stir through any of the following, or you can add them each time you get your breakfast ready depending on how you feel. Chop them or leave them whole :

plump dried apricots
prunes
dried peel
sultanas
craisins
cranberries
dried banana chips
dried figs
dark chocolate nibs

When you serve your granola, use a luscious thick greek style yoghurt like Gippsland (greek yoghurt has good protein content) or alternatively use ricotta cheese, marscapone, or soy/coconut yoghurt.

Top with fruit compote (really easy to make with frozen berries – just put some in a saucepan with a splash of water and a spoon of honey or sugar and heat gently for 5 minutes), or use tinned fruits, or fresh fruits like pineapple, peaches, strawberries and banana. A yummy good quality breakfast.

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Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry

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This delicious curry is relatively simple to make and is best made fresh – there’s nothing quite like freshly fried katsu chicken. If you want to be healthier, you can cook the chicken in the oven. The sauce comes in ready made roux blocks called Golden Curry and they have different strengths – this makes it really simple, but you can also make your own curry roux, so I am going to include the recipe for that too. To serve 2, one large chicken breast should suffice, but feel free to use as much or as little of the ingredients as you wish – these are the approximate quantities that I use.

Ingredients:

1 large chicken breast
Half an onion, chopped into large pieces
1 medium carrot sliced or large diced
1 medium potato large diced
Half a cup of frozen or fresh peas
Panko breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons of flour (any kind, but I use plain most often – you can also use almond flour)
1 egg, beaten
Half a teaspoon of chilli powder
Golden Curry Roux blocks (approx 20g per serving)
Vegetable oil (enough to fill your frying vessel to a depth of at least 2.5cm)

To make the katsu chicken:
1. Heat the oil in a suitable pan for frying – I tend to use a deep wide pan. It will be ready when you place a wooden spoon in the oil and small bubbles rise quickly from the spoon’s surface.
2. Put the flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs into 3 separate large bowls. Season the flour with salt and pepper, (and chilli powder if you feel so inclined).
3. Trim and wash the chicken breast. Pat dry. Place the chicken breast between two sheets of baking parchment and bash it with a rolling pin until it is flatter and thinner.
4. Cut the chicken into 2 or 4 equal size pieces (depending on how you think it will fit into your pan.
5. Coat the chicken pieces in the flour, shake off the excess, dip in the egg, then coat in panko breadcrumbs, pressing the breadcrumbs onto each piece.
6. Fry the pieces in the oil for approx 10 minutes, depending on size, thickness etc. Check that they are cooked by cutting into a thicker part of the meat and checking for pinkness.
7. When you are happy with the doneness, put them on some kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.
8. You can also cook the chicken in the oven – approx 180 deg C for approx 20-30 minutes – again, check them regularly as the time will depend on the size of the pieces.
9. While the chicken is cooking, put the onion, carrot, potato and peas in a saucepan and cover them with just enough water. Simmer them until they are cooked.
10. Add the curry roux blocks to the vegetables and stir until dissolved. If the sauce is too thick, add some more water and keep stirring.
11. Slice the katsu chicken and serve with the vegetable curry sauce and some boiled rice.

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If you prefer to make your own curry sauce, do this:

Finely chop or whizz up half an onion, 2 cloves of garlic and a small (half cm) slice of ginger in a food processor. Cook in a little oil until fragrant.
Mix half a tablespoon of your favourite curry powder with one and a half tablespoons of flour. Stir this in and then slowly add equal quantities of vegetable stock and apple juice until it is a nice thick saucy consistency. Stir well to combine. Stir in half a tablespoon of garam masala. Taste to check the flavour.
If you don’t have apple juice you can whizz up a fresh apple and add this instead, but you will need to keep tasting to get the sweet/savoury balance right.
Now when you simmer the vegetables, drain the water off after cooking and add them to the sauce – you get the same result but all totally homemade.

 

 

 

 

Good Old Fashioned Shepherd’s Pie

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Shepherd’s Pie is one of those lovely warming winter dishes, nice tasty lamb mince with a mashed potato topping, finished off in the oven and served with veggies of your choice.

On the day that I made these 3 batches for the freezer, the supermarket had most of the ingredients I needed in a ‘bargain bucket’, and other than being a little misshapen or ripe, there was nothing wrong with them, hence the large quantities. I’ll give you the recipe here for 500g of mince which will serve at least 5 people and potentially 6 if you pack it with extra veggies. You can make one huge pie or split it into 3 portions as I have done.

Traditionally it does not contain zucchini or swede, but add whatever you like to make your own version.

Ingredients:

500g lamb mince, rinsed. (If it is very fatty you may wish to boil it first for a few minutes to get rid of excess fat then rinse in a sieve with boiling water.)
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 sticks of celery diced
1 dried or fresh chilli (optional)
2 carrots diced
1 small swede peeled and diced (optional)
1 small zucchini/courgette diced (optional)
5 large ripe tomatoes diced (peel them if you feel so inclined)
a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
a lamb stock cube
1 tablespoon of Worcester sauce
Half a tablespoon of Soy sauce
a bunch of chopped chives (optional)
1 tablespoon of mixed herbs (fresh or dried)
2 bay leaves
200g of potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons of butter or spread
a little milk (optional)
40g approx of  grated cheddar cheese (optional)
salt and pepper

1. In a large deep pan, heat approx 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add the lamb mince. Stir fry until it gets some colour and then add the onion, carrots, celery, swede, zucchini and chilli.
2. Fry until they begin to soften. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in some salted water in a large saucepan until they are soft enough to mash (takes about 10 minutes depending on the size of the dice).
3. To the lamb mixture add the tomatoes, fresh and tinned, herbs, Worcester and soy sauces, and crumble the stock cube in to the mixture. Rinse the tomato can with water and add, it if it needs thinning out a little.
4. Cook for approx 20 minutes, and taste. Add salt and pepper as necessary.
5. Drain the potatoes (leave a little water in the pan), return to the pan and mash with the addition of the butter, milk, part of the cheese and some salt and pepper to season.
6. Put the lamb mixture in an ovenproof dish and cover with mash. Top the mash with some cheese (as much or as little as you like).
7. At this point the pie can cool and be frozen for later use. If you are eating it now, pop it into an oven at 170 – 180 deg C for about 15-20 minutes until the cheese browns and bubbles. If reheating from frozen, thaw first (if you have time) for at least 2 hours, then reheat in an oven at 170-180 deg C for about 40 minutes. Cooking directly from frozen works but will take longer and a lower temperature is recommended to heat it through slowly before turning the heat up to 180 for the last 15 minutes.
8. Serve with a side of veggies such as peas, broccoli, spinach.

Optional other ingredients: Mushrooms, Eggplant, Button squash, Tomato paste, Sweet potato mash.
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Apricot Sesame Balls

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These power packed balls are really soft and succulent, you can vary the ingredients to suit your taste, but mine are laced with warm Christmassy spices that are a nice contrast to the sweet apricots. This recipe makes approximately 10 ‘mouthful sized’ balls.

Ingredients (all approximate – adjust them to suit your own taste):

70g Dried apricots whole or shredded

Half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Half a teaspoon of ground cardamom

Sesame seeds for coating (approx 15g)

1 cup of muesli of your choice – blitzed to make it finer in a food processor – not quite powder, but no big lumps

Method:

In a small saucepan simmer the apricots with a quarter of a cup of water and the cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom until the apricots have softened (about 12-15 mins), add a little more water if they look dry.

Cool the apricot mixture to room temp, then stir it into the muesli to make a soft paste.

Roll the paste into balls and roll them in sesame seeds. If the paste is a little dry add some more water, if it is a bit too moist, add some more muesli or some ground nuts.

Simple ! Enjoy.

 

Quick Singapore style noodles

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I had a bit of a craving for Singapore Noodles the other day and decided to make something similar from pretty much leftovers.

I had some leftover roast chicken from a Sunday roast and some leftover greens which were ideal for the job. Sometimes the best dishes are made form leftovers.

You need:

3 tablespoons of Rendang paste (you can use any curry paste but this one gives it that authentic Singaporean flavour)

1 tablespoon coriander

Half a tablespoon cumin

Half a teaspoon turmeric

Some protein of your choice – tofu, chicken, beef, pork, prawns etc.

A bag of bean sprouts

A fresh chopped chilli (or some dried chilli that you can crush and flake into the mixture)

An onion finely sliced

A clove of garlic finely sliced

A few mushrooms sliced

Some cherry tomatoes sliced

Some ‘straight to wok’ thin Singapore egg noodles

Something green thinly sliced (I used a few leaves of spring greens, but pak choi or similar will be good)

Optional extras – chunks of omelette, capsicum, small slices of carrot, fresh coriander, crispy fried onions.

Method:

Fry the onion, chilli and garlic in a little groundnut oil until they begin to soften. Add the curry paste and dry spices and stir well. Cook for 2 -3 minutes. Add water if necessary to keep some sauce happening.

Add the protein and mushrooms. Stir fry for approx 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, half of the beansprouts and the noodles. Stir well and stir fry for another 2 -3 minutes to ensure that everything is coated in sauce. Stir in some fresh coriander.

When warm through, serve on a plate or in a bowl. Add some raw beansprouts and some crispy fried onions to finish.

YUM.

Raw Coconut, Lemon and Blueberry Balls

I have often seen raw food balls in the cafes that I frequent and they are quite expensive, often costing around $4 each.

Blueberry and Lemon raw food balls

I am currently on a muscle strengthening plan and I have to eat protein every 3 hours throughout the day. Not wanting to eat huge amounts of meat every day, I decided to have a go at making these balls to give me a protein hit and to stave off mid morning and mid afternoon hunger pangs. They are incredibly easy to make, very quick and they taste really good.

I also added some cacao powder to mine which I had in the cupboard, but it’s optional. you can also add things like chia and oats if you like, or try different nut varieties.

Ingedients:

30g Cacao powder (optional)

One and a half cups of cashews

Half a cup of shredded or desiccated coconut (plus extra for rolling)

Half a cup of dried blueberries (I found these in Coles with the home baking goods, but I am sure you can use fresh blueberries too)

Three quarters of a cup of fresh dates, chopped

1 lemon, you need the zest and at least half the juice

Half a teaspoon of vanilla essence

Stevia sweetener or raw brown sugar (optional)

A generous pinch of sea salt

Method:

In a food processor, whizz up the cashews, coconut and blueberries. Pour them into a bowl. Put the dates and cacao in the food processor and whizz them up. Add them to the bowl. Add half the lemon zest, half of the lemon juice and the salt and vanilla.  Mix well and taste the mixture. Add more lemon juice if necessary. If you need it to be sweeter you can also add some Stevia sweetener or a teaspoon of brown sugar.

Using a spatula, mix the ingredients together until they bind into a dough.

Place some desiccated coconut and the rest of the lemon zest in a separate bowl – mix them well.

Now make small balls with the mixture (approx the diameter of a 50p or 50c piece, but it doesn’t matter if they are bigger or smaller). Roll the balls in the coconut/lemon mixture to coat them and store them in an airtight container.

This made about 14 balls but the exact quantity depends on the size.

Huevos Rancheros

This is my recipe for huevos rancheros. I am not sure if it is totally authentic, but it is very tasty and works well as breakfast, brunch or supper.

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This is a recipe that can be adapted to be suitable for vegetarians.

If you are vegetarian, leave the chorizos out, and if you are vegan leave the eggs out.

Ingredients:

4 fresh eggs

1 – 2 chorizos sliced or diced

2 medium potatoes

1 – 2 onions sliced

1 -2 fresh chillies sliced (any variety depending on how hot you like them)

2 cloves of garlic chopped finely or crushed

2 capsicums, one red, one yellow sliced

2 fresh ripe tomatoes chopped (Roma are good)

1 tin of mixed beans, drained (pinto beans and black beans are traditional but you can use any bean mixture)

1 tin of diced or crushed tomatoes

Thyme – fresh or concentrate

Flat leaf parsley

Smoked paprika

Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Wash the outside of the potatoes and dice them (leave the skin on – it is full of goodness and life is too short to peel potatoes). Boil them in salted water for about 10 minutes until they are soft but still holding their shape. This can be done a day in advance and if you like a crispier texture, the potatoes can then be fried or oven baked to add a bit of crunch, however, if you don’t have time the recipe still works with just boiled diced potatoes.
  2. Choose a pan that is suitable for the hob and the grill (one with a handle that won’t melt) and put a little olive oil in the pan.
  3. If using chorizos, put them in first to render the fat from them and add flavour to the oil. Fry them for a few minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, onion, chilli, potatoes, capsicums, approx. 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika and 2 tablespoons of thyme and fry for approx. 5 minutes until the onion and capsicums have softened.
  5. Add the beans and the tinned and fresh tomatoes and stir well, cook for a further 2 – 3 minutes. Turn the grill on.
  6. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to your taste. Stir in some chopped flat leaf parsley.
  7. Now make 4 wells in the mixture and break an egg in to each well. Cook for another minute on the hob and then transfer to the grill to finish off the eggs. I like my eggs to be slightly wobbly and dippy, but if you prefer your eggs well done, cook them for longer. Garnish with a little parsley.
  8. Traditionally this is served on corn tortillas, but I like to serve it with crusty bread to mop up all of the sauce.

Onion, Tomato and Mushroom Tart

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I wanted to make a tart for our Melbourne Cup lunch at work, and decided to make something vegetarian so that everybody could have a taste. I made the pastry the day before and lined the pie dish with it. I then kept the pie dish in the fridge until I needed it.

PASTRY:

250g plain flour

125g butter (or 100g dairy free spread), diced

1 egg

pinch of salt

1. Mix the flour, salt and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2. Transfer to a large bowl and add the egg. Mix well with a spatula.

3. Add splashes of cold water until it binds together to form a nice round of dough.

4. Making sure that your hands are cold, pat the dough together and roll out on a floured surface. Line a pastry dish with the dough and hook it over the edge of the dish slightly (this will stop it from shrinking down in the oven). Wrap the whole dish in foil and store in the fridge until needed.

On the day that you are cooking the tart, bake the pastry case blind (use ceramic beads) for approx 10 – 15 minutes at 180 deg C. Once baked blind, gently press a rolling pin on the top edge to remove the excess pastry that was hooked over the sides.

FILLING:

You can use your imagination with the filling and include any veggies that you like, but I chose onion, mushroom and tomatoes.

ONIONS – Slice 1 large or 2 small onions (I used red onions), and fry them in a little olive oil. As they soften add a sprinkle of salt, a dash of balsamic vinegar (optional) and a little sugar (optional) to help them caramelise.

MUSHROOMS – Slice the mushrooms and cook them in a saucepan with a little salt and pepper and a teaspoon of dairy free spread or butter until they are just soft.

TOMATOES – I used cherry tomatoes halved and I cooked them – cut side down – in the onion pan just to concentrate some of the liquid in them. You can also add some  chopped sun dried tomatoes to the tart. I seasoned them lightly with salt and pepper.

BASIL – tear or thinly slice some fresh basil leaves

SAUCE – 3 eggs whisked up with 280mls milk and some grated cheddar – I don’t know how much I used but it was probably enough to cover the surface of the tart. I mixed some cheese with the sauce and saved some to sprinkle on top.

Now arrange the onions, mushrooms and tomatoes in the tart, add some chopped basil, and pour the sauce over to fill the tart to the brim, Sprinkle a little cheese on top and bake in a preheated oven at 180-200 deg C for approx 25-30 minutes until the filling is set and golden.

Serve warm or chilled.

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