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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.

golden curry

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.

huevos rancheros

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.

Awesome Fried Chicken

I don’t have junk food very often, and when I do I am always a bit disappointed. It really is quite easy to make at home and tastes much better, and you know what goes into it – there are no nasty chemicals or preservatives. I have always wondered what the secret herbs and spices are in KFC, and I set about attempting to make the best home-made fried chicken.

This is the recipe that I came up with and it was really really good – I would have liked a bit of chilli, so I have added chilli as an optional ingredient. You can use either whole pieces of chicken leg, thighs, wings or breast, or you can make nugget sized pieces. If you want to minimise the frying time, you can always poach the chicken in advance (poach it in a nice flavoursome stock), and then you just need to fry it until the batter is nicely brown.

Homemade Nuggets

Homemade Nuggets

This is enough batter to coat nuggets from 2 large chicken breasts – will serve 3 or 4 as a main course:

Half a cup of chickpea flour

1 cup of self raising flour

1 teaspoon of garlic salt

1 teaspoon of onion salt

1 teaspoon of powdered onion flakes

Half to 1 teaspoon of chilli or curry powder (optional – for the heat lovers)

1 1/2 tablespoons of caster sugar

Half a teaspoon of ground pepper

Half a teaspoon of smoky paprika

Half a teaspoon of cumin

Half a teaspoon of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of oregano

1 teaspoon of sage

1 teaspoon of thyme

1 teaspoon of ginger powder or grated fresh ginger

With the herbs you can use fresh or concentrate if you don’t have dried.

Method:

1. Mix all of the above ingredients together in a bowl.

2. Add 200mls of water (you can use cold soda water if you want a lighter batter). Mix well. The batter will be quite thick and gloopy – this is good as it will stick nicely to the chicken. It should be a thick dropping consistency so if you lift your spoon up it will slowly slide off the spoon. If it doesn’t slide at all, add a little more water.

3. Chop your chicken (raw or pre-poached) into the desired portion sizes.

4. Coat with batter.

5. Fry in approx 1-2 inches of hot oil – time depends on the size of the pieces. My nuggets took about 4-5 minutes. Turn frequently so that they cook evenly.

Serve with anything you like – I like the following options:

  • salad
  • corn
  • peas
  • home made potato wedge
  • fresh mayonnaise
  • tomato sauce
  • chilli mayo

See my recipe for super quick mayo

Toffee Fruits

One of my fond memories of UK Chinese restaurants is the toffee fruit dessert served with ice cream. You can get it in Australia, but it’s not quite as common or popular as in the UK. Most restaurants serve toffee apple or toffee banana, but I have seen lychee before and theoretically you can do it with any firm fruit that can withstand deep frying. Pineapple and pear would probably also be good options.

The recipe is not the easiest thing to do at first, but once you work it out, the results are so worth it. My first attempt does look a bit clumsy and messy, but the guests loved them. Now I know what to do, next time the presentation will be better.

Toffee Fruits

You can prepare and deep fry the fruits in advance to save time. The batter is enough to coat two apples, a banana and a  can of lychees, it is fairly thick and made up of:

100g plain flour

1 large egg – beaten

1 tablespoon of peanut (groundnut) or corn oil

120 ml water

I used a large high sided frypan to fry my fruits but you can also use a wok, saucepan or deep fat fryer.

To prepare the fruits:

Apples – peel and core the apple then cut into 8 wedges

Lychees – peel and stone fresh lychees, for canned lychees, drain them well (make sure there is no liquid in the centre) and pat them dry with kitchen paper.

Bananas – cut them into chunks – I used zig zag cuts along the length of the banana.

Coat the fruits in batter and deep fry them in an unflavoured oil e.g. corn oil or peanut (groundnut) oil. Make sure that the fruit is fully coated with batter – a thicker batter helps with this. Fry the apple and banana for about 4-5 minutes turning frequently until the batter is a light golden brown. The lychees take a bit less time. Drain them on kicthen paper to keep them as crispy as possible.

If you are not serving them straight away – once all of the pieces have been fried, allow the oil to cool, sieve it to get rid of any debris, and keep the oil for the second frying.

When you are almost ready to serve re-fry the fruit pieces in the hot oil for just a minute to warm them up and get them crispy again.

Now the tricky bit, have a bowl of iced water ready and some sesame seeds handy.

In a wok or saucepan, warm 3 tablespoons of groundnut or corn oil. Add 9 tablespoons of white caster sugar and dissolve it in the oil over the heat. It may take on a strange appearance and look like white lumps, but persevere – keep stirring all the time and don’t overheat it. When it is ready it will turn a pale golden brown. Quickly coat the fruit pieces in the caramel, remember as you put the fruit into the caramel it will start to cool, so work quickly, then drop each piece into the iced water which will immediately set the caramel and then place the pieces on a serving plate.

Tips – if you are using a spoon to transfer your fruit from the caramel to the ice water, don’t let the spoon touch the ice water or your toffee fruit will stick to the spoon. Warm your spoon(s) first so that you are not dipping cold spoons into warm caramel. The Chinese use chopsticks to do this – so if you are a dab hand with chopsticks…maybe try them.

I am not quite sure if it is best to add the sesame seeds to the caramel  while the fruits are being coated, or afterwards when they are on the plate. I think that they stick better if you add them to the caramel.

I placed my platter on the table and everybody just used their fingers to serve the fruits straight to the mouth – it was a lovely communal food moment. They are delicious with vanilla ice cream. As you can see from my picture, some of my lychees popped out of their batter coating. I think this was because they were not 100% covered in batter, so next time I will make sure that they are fully coated.

 

 

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