Category Archives: winter warmers

Beef Masaman Curry – rich and delicious


Watching Rick Stein on his Eastern Odyssey around Asia, I couldn’t help but be inspired to recreate this amazing Thai dish.

It’s aromatic, nutty, warm with chilli, but far from blowing your head off, and it fills your home with the beautiful spicy fragrances of cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.

I was intimidated by the ingredient list – but one stop to my local Indian grocer and I was set. The lady at the shop was amazing – she whizzed around the little store with me looking at my list and grabbing everything I needed, including blade mase – which I had NEVER seen before. I strongly suggest you do the same – hit your local Indian/Asian grocer and the shopping list will no longer be a hassle!

I have to admit, I was also stressing about the chilli content – I mean 12 dried chillies sounded way over the top for a curry considered to be very mild in terms of Thai food. But, as you will see, this recipe calls for Kashmiri chillies – which I have since found out are hardly spicy at all. I’m glad I didn’t chicken out and reduce the amount of chilli, because at the end, it was just perfect.

This dish is definitely a weekend project – when you have time on your hands and just feel like having some “me” time in the kitchen with your mortar and pestle. It took hours to create this – but when we sat down and took the first bite – it was instantly worth it! Better than any jarred massaman curry I have ever tasted.

I have taken most of this recipe straight from Rick – but have added a few changes which I found worked well along the way.

Curry paste

  • 10 dried red kashmiri chillies, seeds removed, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp green cardamom seeds (from about 20 green cardamom pods)
  • 16 cloves
  • 1  cinnamon stick
  • 2 large pieces of blade mace
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed, soft inner core chopped
  • 1/4 cup of coconut cream

The curry

  • 1.5kg of chuck steak, cut into large chunks
  • 600ml of coconut cream
  • 6 black cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large cubes
  • 8 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp of tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1/2 a cup of peanuts, roasted and roughly chopped

Method

For the curry, place the beef into a heavy-based pan with 350ml of the coconut milk and an equal amount of water. Add the black cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and salt, then bring to a simmer and partially cover the pan with a lid, leaving just a small gap for the steam to escape. Cook for two hours, stirring occasionally, until the beef is just tender. While that’s simmering, you can tackle the curry paste.

Heat a dry, heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the dried chillies and fry for 1-2 minutes, shaking the pan frequently to prevent the chillies from burning, until the chillies are lightly toasted. Transfer the chillies to a spice grinder or mortar.

Return the pan to the heat and add the coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon and blade mace and fry for a few seconds, shaking the pan frequently, until the spices darken slightly and release their aromatics. Add the toasted spices to the spice grinder or mortar and grind or pound to a fine powder.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and garlic and fry slowly over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until caramelised. Add the shrimp paste and spice mixture and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the mixture into a food processor, add all of the remaining curry paste ingredients and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside until your beef has cooked for the two hours set out above.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut into large pieces.

Now that the curry has been simmering for two hours, remove the lid from the curry and discard the black cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Stir in the rest of the coconut milk, the potatoes, shallots, the curry paste, fish sauce, tamarind  and sugar and simmer gently, uncovered, for a further 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes, shallots and beef are tender. Stir in the peanuts.

Serve with steamed rice and some fresh, chopped red chillies for those who like their curries a little hotter.

As for my music recommendation – due to the long process – I suggest your going to need an album … or three!

However, if you can get your hands on Adele’s new album called 21 – and if you appreciate a truly amazing voice and chilled melodies – you can simply play it over and over and … over again 🙂

In an act of support for how awesome this chick is, I’m linking to two of her songs – firstly Rolling Deep – which I admit is becoming a tad over-played.

But, here’s another awesome song from the album, Someone Like You. In this video, she also talks about her inspiration for writing this amazing song.

Happy cooking, eating and grooving!

The Weekly Cook Up – Roast chicken with the best crispy skin EVER!


As much as we are told that eating chicken skin is bad … isn’t the skin just the yummiest bit?

Provided it’s cooked right and lovely and crispy, the skin is something people fight over – just like really good pork crackling.

But, like crackling, perfectly crispy skin can be a bit of a challenge to achieve.

The trick is to bring the chicken to room temperature before roasting, and to ensure the skin is really dry by patting it with some kitchen towel. Where did I learn this? Neil Perry, of course 🙂 This dish is inspired by a recipe of his on the Rockpool website. The chicken is flavoured with lemon and thyme and served with his beautiful aoli – which you can buy in the fresh food section at the supermarket. YUM! I also roasted potato, parsnip, swede and carrots making this an amazing one-pan dish.

Crispy-skinned roast chicken with lemon, thyme and roast potatoes

  • 1 x 1.6 – 1.8kg chicken
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A few knobs of butter
  • ½ bunch thyme
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 carrots, washed, cut in half and then sliced lengthways
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into rough pieces
  • 3 potatoes, washed and cut into rough pieces
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 punnet cherry tomatoes

Method

An hour before you begin cooking take the chicken out of the fridge and pat dry with paper towel. Place the thyme and lemon inside the chicken cavity. Drizzle all over with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat you oven to 220°c.

Heat a roasting pan in the oven. Add enough olive oil to barely cover the tray and a few knobs of butter, then add all of your vegetables except the tomatoes and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, toss well and place the pan in the oven. Cook the vegetables for about 20 minutes – they should be just starting to brown.

Remove the tray from the oven and add the cherry tomatoes and whole garlic cloves. Place the chicken face up into the pan and return to the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. I found I needed to cook my chicken for an extra 10 minutes, as it was still a little pink.

Remove from the oven, lightly cover with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving. This step is really important as it allows all the juices to calm down from the cooking, making it lovely and moist.


Cut the chicken into quarters, and serve with the roasted vegies and Neil Perry’s fresh aoli on top. Some crusty sourdough bread is perfect too 🙂

My dog, Angel, got the leftovers. After a good feed, he was feeling pretty tired 🙂

As for a groovy tune to go with this delicious Sunday roast – I’d suggest this track by the Freelance Whalers. I came across this song on the Offspring soundtrack. I am totally addicted to this show and thought the music was amazing too! It’s kind of chilled and yet has this really cool rhythm to it. I think I love this song too, because it’s called Hannah, which is my favourite name 🙂 Hope you enjoy it as much as I do – although the video clip is a little weird 🙂

The Weekly Cook Up: Morrocan Beef Tagine


Moroccan food, in my book, is absolutely gorgeous. This tagine is no different because it’s filled with delicate flavours, amazing freshness and the pangs of yumminess that come from lemon and olives.

I admit, there are a few ingredients in this dish – but that’s why it’s a Weekly Cook Up recipe. It needs a little love and time to ensure you are left with a succulent, tender and flavourful dish.

I generally get annoyed when people call dishes like this a tagine – when they didn’t actually use a tagine to cook it in. I mean, that’s the whole point! So, I apologise to myself right now. I am calling this a tagine, because the flavours deserve that title. I didn’t have mine handy because we were house-sitting for my brother and his girl while they were off sunning themselves in warmer places of Australia. Also, this is a large batch, which will serve 6 to 8 to allow for freezing, so it wouldn’t probably fit in a tagine anyway. Feel free to halve the quantities and break out your tagine, if you have one. They are definitely a worthwhile investment.

You will see below that the first component of the recipe involves making a chermoula. This is like the equivalent of a curry paste – but in this case the consistency is more like a watery salsa. This is a critical step in making this dish as it’s where you start to build the flavour base. Keep in mind when making this dish that you really need to marinade the meat for about two hours after adding the chermoula.

Beef Tagine with Lemon, Olives and Coriander

Chermoula

  • 6 tomatoes, finely diced
  • 3 tbs of fresh coriander root, finely chopped
  • the zest of a whole lemon
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large green chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 cm of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp of Moroccan spice paste (I used Dave Bittons – but there are others available in the spice section at the supermarket)

The tagine

  • 2 kg of chuck steak – trimmed of excess fat (but leave a bit on for tenderness and flavour). Cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 potatoes (I didn’t peel them, but you can if you prefer) cut into wedges
  • 1/2 a cup of water
  • 1 cup of green pitted olives (you can use kalamata, if you like)
  • 4 tbs of chopped, fresh coriander

Method

Combine all the ingredients for the chermoula.

Place half the chermoula in a bowl with the meat. Mix thoroughly and seal both bowls with cling film and place in the fridge for an hour – 2 if possible to allow the flavours to meld and marinate.

 Take the meat and chermoula out of the fridge and set aside. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a large, heavy-based pan and add the onion, cooking over a medium heat until nice and soft.

Add the meat, the remaining chermoula as well as the tomatoes, potatoes and water.

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a very low heat for about two hours, or until the meat is lovely and tender. Add the olives, allow to heat through for a minute or two. Add the fresh coriander, then serve.

Serve with cous cous and some nice crusty bread.

This dish has amazing layers of flavour that will dance in your mouth. The soft, fluffy cous cous soaks up the juices perfectly. This really is an awesome dish.

As for my music recommendation – One Republic was definitely a feature of my playlist while I was making this. Make sure you look up their albums – but one of my favourite songs is called Lullaby. It’s a song about home, about feeling safe and content. Have a listen below. It’s a really beautiful song.

The tagine will freeze well for up to three months. Seeing as it’s the Queens Birthday long weekend, why not spend some time whipping up some dishes like this to freeze to make your life easier when work and life gets crazy again! Check out The Weekly Cook Up for more inspiration. Other than cooking – what are your plans this long weekend? I’m working at my brother and dad’s shop, and relaxing with my finacee. No doubt there’ll be some cooking going on too 🙂

Leek and chickpea soup


It’s so freezing outside that I thought I should share with you a soup recipe that has become one of my all-time favourites. I adore leeks and seeing as they are in season, now is an ideal time to whip this up. I really didn’t like the idea of chickpeas in soup at first – but although it only has a few ingredients, the flavour is amazing. I originally saw this made on a Jamie Oliver cooking show way back when. I’ve made it my own and no longer need the recipe to guide me. Everyone I have served it to has been impressed 🙂

So – introducing …

 Leek and Chickpea Soup

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 leeks
  • 3 desiree potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
  • 1.5 – 2 litres of chicken stock
  • Parmesan cheese (to serve, but optional)

Cut leeks down the middle, discarding the tough green part at the top, and clean thoroughly under running water. Chop fairly finely.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add leeks and a few good pinches of salt. The salt will not only add flavour, but allow the leeks to wilt, without colouring. This should take about five minutes over a medium heat – ensure you keep an eye on it and stir regularly.

Add the potatoes, along with the chickpeas and cook until heated through. Add stock at this point – enough to generously cover the mixture.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until potato cubes are tender.

Remove from heat and using a stick mixer (or blender), blitz the ingredients, but leave some chunky bits.

Blitzing ensures the soup is beautiful and creamy, but leaving some chunky bits of chickpea and leek means there is really nice texture too. However, feel free to blitz to a smooth consistency if that’s what you prefer.

Bring back to the simmer – now you can judge whether more stock needs to be added. Just add more until the texture is to your liking. Make sure you have a taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve drizzled with some olive oil and shavings of parmesan cheese.

This soup really is a meal in a bowl and also makes a fantastic lunch. You can freeze it too, if you want – but I find this one disappears out of the fridge pretty quickly!

My Groovy Kitchen Tunes track for this warm, nutty soup would have to be Dark Storm, by The Jezebels. Its title is reflective of our weather here in Victoria at the moment, but there’s something warming and hopeful about it at the same time. Curl up on the couch tonight in front of the TV, pop a blanket over you and enjoy this soup and just think, the weekend is nearly here!! Sounds like a perfect Wednesday night to me 🙂

Butter Chicken – the weeknight version


Butter chicken is one of those curries that won’t scare those opposed to heat and is great for kids. Not a chilli in site!

While curries are a bit famous for taking a very long time to cook – this version is actually quite quick (on the table within 40 minutes, including preparation) and doesn’t require going to the supermarket to purchase 10 different kinds of spice.

It’s a bit of a cheats version – but don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for that! This uses a store-brought mild curry paste. Some brands of these are better than others. I find Sharwood to be superior and the flavour is really fantastic. It’s all fine to spend a bit of time on the weekend grinding up your own curry paste, but it’s not something for during week.

You’ll notice that the quantities are enough to feed a small army – and that’s because I was cooking it not only for our dinner, but also as additional meals for my dad to put in his freezer.

So, why not cook a large batch – serve it up for dinner, then pop the rest in an air-tight container for the freezer. It’ll give you a night off when you can’t face cooking.

Butter Chicken

  • 3 heaped tbs of mild curry paste (Sharwood is my prefered supermarket variety – but there are fabulous ones at Indian supermarkets)
  • 2 large red onions, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2cm nob of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs of dried ground coriander
  • 2 tbs of tomato paste (this is a key ingredient, not only for flavour, but colour as well)
  • 2 kg of chicken thigh fillets, chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 500ml of thickened cream
  • 1/2 a cup of water
  • 1 large handful of chopped, fresh coriander (optional)

Method


In a large, heavy-based saucepan add the paste, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste and dried coriander and cook until the spices become fragrant, about five minutes. If they start to burn and catch on the bottom of the pan, add a little water.

Add the chicken and cook over a medium heat, stirring regularly, until the chicken’s juices start to loosen the mix. This will take 5-10 minutes. Add the water and the cream and stir well. Allow to simmer over a low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the curry is a lovely, rich orangey colour. Add the coriander, if using. and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with basmati rice and pappadums or naan bread, if you have it handy!

My Groovy Kitchen Tunes track choice for the cooking of this recipe would have to be something warm and comforting, just like this dish. As soon as this song comes on, I can’t help but smile, which is how I feel when I put the first fork full of butter chicken in my mouth. The Temper Trap is my new absolute favourite band right now, in and out of the kitchen! Their album Conditions was a big feature of the playlist at our engagement party in May. Their incredible – as is this song – Fader. Have a listen!

Super-quick pasta with pancetta, olives and basil


Food that is full of flavour, but quick and kind on the budget – that’s exactly the thing I love to eat mid-week and this pasta dish is perfect.

First, lets talk flavour – olives, pancetta (or bacon is a fine alternative) are an awesome combo accompanied by tomatoes and some nice fresh basil. No basil in the house? Parsley is fine too, or even some baby spinach leaves.

The best thing about this is it’s something everyone can whip together as long as you have some form of pasta in the cupboard, tomatoes (canned or fresh), some form of bacony meat (pancetta, bacon, even some ham or salami would work really well) and some fresh herbs or other greenery. Even the olives are optional – although I think they are the highlight of this dish. I used huge green pitted olives which I sliced – but you could use kalamata olives, or even black ones – whatever is handy.

As for price and time – I think you can see it’s not something that’s going to take ages to cook – including prep, absolutely no more than 20 minutes. There’s very few ingredients and flexibility to use up what you have in the fridge – so in the cost stakes, it’s very economical too.

Ok, enough convincing – more recipe writing!

Super-quick pasta with pancetta, olives and basil

Serves: 4

  •  250gm of dried pasta (I used spirals, but anything goes)
  • 1/2 a cup of cubed pancetta (or three middle bacon rashers sliced, or even the same amount of salami would work well too)
  • 3 spring onion stalks, chopped (or a small onion, peeled and chopped)
  • 200gm of green olives, pitted and sliced (these are optional or you can use whatever olives you have around)
  • 1 400gm can of chopped tomatoes (or the equivalent of fresh)
  • 1/4 cup of white wine (only if you have it)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves, torn (or parsley or spinach leaves would work well too)
  • Freshly ground pepper

Method

Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil – and add two teaspoons of salt. Bring to the boil and add your pasta. Cook as per packet directions.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large fry pan, add the pancetta (or whatever meat product you choose) and cook for two minutes until browning. Add the spring onion (or onion) along with the tomatoes and wine (if using) and bring up to a brisk simmer. Season with pepper and allow to cook.

Drain your pasta and add it top the sauce, along with the olives and fresh herbs. Stir through and allow to simmer for a minute or two to allow the sauce to stick to the pasta. If it looks a little dry, add some water until you are happy with the consistency.

Serve immediately with some garlic bread and a salad, if you can be bothered making one.

Can I freeze it?: Sure can – in an air-tight container for up to three months. Thaw before re-heating for best results. You may need to add some water while re-heating, as freezing can make the sauce go dry.

Be Inspired~

Lisa

The Weekly Cook Up – Irish Stew


Irish stew is a casserole that has been the key to keeping hungry people’s tummies warm and full for a very long time.

It’s simple to make, with few ingredients and is ideal for your slow cooker. The first time I ever ate it was at an Irish pub in my hometown of Geelong – and once I’d had it, I couldn’t wait to re-create it. So, this is my version of a very, very famous stew. There’s no spice and kids are sure to like its  gravy flavour. Irish stew also only has meat, carrot and potato, so no need to negotiate with them to eat anything too fancy, weird-looking or green, for that matter.

This freezes extremely well, so why not whip up a batch this weekend.

Irish Stew

  • 1kg lamb four-quarter chops, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1/2 a cup of flour, which has been seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled a cut into large chunks
  • 3 large deseree potatoes, peeled and sliced into large chunks
  • Enough beef stock to cover everything (about 1 litre)
  • 1 tsp of fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tbs of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Method

Place the flour, salt and pepper in a zip lock bag and added the cubes of lamb. Close the bag and toss to coat the lamb with flour.

Heat some oil in a large, heavy based casserole and cook the lamb in batches until it is sealed and brown on the outside. Set the lamb aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan and cook the onion until it is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the lamb back into the pan, along with all remaining ingredients.

Bring to the boil, cover and reduce heat to very low. Simmer for two hours, checking and stirring occasionally. At the end of the cooking time the sauce should be nice and thick and the vegies and meat nice and tender.

If using a slow cooker, add all ingredients to the ceramic dish and cook on high for 3 hours, or on low for 5.

Serve with some nice crusty bread and a big glass of your favourite red wine.

 

Creamy mushroom and asparagus risotto


This was the first risotto recipe I ever made, and while I have done many more since, this delicious combination has stood the test of time.

My first attempt was back when I was a 23-year-old sub-editor working the 3pm to 12am shift at a daily newspaper in a country town in New South Wales. Boredom and loneliness was often an issue for me, so I used to entertain myself by cooking up heaps of different dishes. I didn’t have to worry about feeding someone else and what their likes and dislikes were. I didn’t have to stress if the dish took forever, I was on my time, no hungry people (other than my tummy) hovering around. As a tribute to my solitude, I went a little crazy with my culinary experiments. The best part for me was that if one of my far-fetched dishes turned into an inedible mess, I would be the only one going to bed hungry.

So, I headed to the shop, brought a packet of alborio rice, and looked at the back of the packet to find this very recipe (which I have since adapted). I then proceeded to walk around and around the supermarket, finding the bits and pieces I needed. One thing I discovered about myself during this lonely phase (I learnt a lot, actually) was that without a little direction – I get totally lost and distracted in supermarkets. I used to go from the freezer section to the deli and then up to the biscuit isle, before realising I forgot the parsley in the fruit and veg section. I’d then think; “ice-cream, would be nice …”  so off I’d go to the other end of the shop.

 My fiancée would attest that I’m not much better when accompanied by someone willing to carry my basket of goodies – but I do try to stay focused!

Anyway, I digress –  back to the risotto.

I cut up all my ingredients (something I recommend doing when cooking any dish for the first time, especially when using a new technique – it keeps things a little more organised and helps with timing) and I got underway. I added rice and wine and stock and stirred it round and round as I did so. I got a little bored with the stirring, so I phoned a friend, holding the phone with one hand and my wodden spoon with the other. We had a good old chat! 

In the finish, it came out ok. Although it was a bit dry, and it got stuck to the bottom of the pan.

But I pressed ahead and served my little experiment into a nice bowl. I then took up my position on my old, uncomfortable futon couch, in my holey, but very comfy PJs you would never let a boy see you in for how unsexy they were. All this was completed with a nice drop of wine in my very best coffee mug, perched on the floor beside me. Upon the first bite, I discovered I had produced a meal that was, well, quite uncooked. Ok, it was crunchy. I obviously hadn’t persisted long enough with the ladelling of stock and stirring of rice.

But, the flavours were all there – it was just the texture that was wrong. I did eat it all too. I was hungry and it was too cold and too late to head out for Maccas.

I bet you aren’t keen to try this recipe now – but you really should. Honestly! Learn from my mistakes and you’ll do as well as my second attempt – which turned out fabulously well!

Tips to perfect risotto:

  • Taste the rice before you decide it’s ready, and continue to ladel and stir until you get the right texture, which is soft with the subtlest bite to the rice – it should be creamy and loose.
  • Heat your stock in a pot beside your risotto pan – it takes less time for the rice to absorb hot stock then cold, making it much, much quicker.
  • Use a non-stick frypan – trust me, this is a good idea!
  • Cook the risotto at a high heat and don’t stop stirring! The stirring releases the starch from the rice, making the risotto creamy.
  • Always check your seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • The other trick I discovered was that it’s worth getting someone to give you a hand with the stirring – this means employing a spouse, friend, teenager etc to do this for you. Best idea ever!

Creamy mushroom and asparagus risotto

  • Tandoori Chicken Risotto
  • 600gm of chicken thigh fillets, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup of pancetta, diced
  • 200gm of alborio rice
  • 1/2 a bottle of white wine
  • 4 portabelo mushrooms (or whichever ones you like), sliced
  • 1 litre of chicken stock (you will probably use less than this, but best to have it on hand)
  • 3 bunches of asparagus, trim away the woody bit, leaving the spears
  • 2 handfuls of grated parmesan (a good quality one)
  • 3 tbs of thickened cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Put the chicken stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil before turning right down.

Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick pan and cook the onion over a low heat, until it is beginning to soften. Add the panchetta and cook for a further two minutes or so.

Turn up the heat and add your chicken. Cook for about five minutes, then add the alborio rice.

Stir so that all the grains are coated and really hot, but don’t burn them. Add all the wine. It will bubble a lot (if it doesn’t, your stove isn’t hot enough). Stir until the wine has absorbed. 

At this point, start ladelling your stock in. Put one ladel full of stock in at a time and stir each until it has absorbed into the rice before adding the next. This will take about 20 to 30 minutes. Ensuring your stock is hot before adding it will quicken the process.

After about 10 minutes (so the rice should be half-cooked) add the mushroom and asparagus.

 The only way to tell that it’s ready it to taste it, as mentioned previously. Make sure the risotto is nice and lose and creamy – it shouldn’t be dry and stodgy.

Finish with the cheese and cream. Once you have stirred it through, you might like to add a touch more stock, as the cheese can thicken the risotto.  

Whether you have tried cooking risotto before or not – this is a great recipe and I promise, as long as you taste and stir, it will be lovely, creamy and comforting! Why not make it the next time you have an afternoon free, your next anniversary dinner when the kids are elsewhere or for your next dinner party.

This recipe really isn’t one to freeze. You can if you want, but the texture will change. Add some water when reheating if you’d like to try it.

Be inspired~

Lisa

Fabulous side dish: Smashed potatoes


Side dishes are a real challenge for me, and I think for a lot of people. You know the main thing you’d like to cook – some simply grilled fish, a nice roast chicken or even a steak – but I’m always asking myself “but what are we going to have with it??”

So, I’ve been road testing a few side dish ideas, and this one is awesome 🙂 Smashing the potatoes gives great texture, and I made this with bacon and spring onions – all great friends of the humble potato. This isn’t a pretty dish, but it’s full of flavour, simple and will compliment many different dishes. I love mashed and baked potatoes – but this is a nice change.

SMASHED POTATOES

  • 4 deseree potatoes
  • 3 rashers of bacon, sliced into chunks
  • 2 spring onion stalks, chopped
  • 2 knobs of butter
  • a little olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Score the potatoes with a knife and cook in the microwave for 7 minutes, or until soft and tender.

Place a non-stick pan over a high heat and add enough olive oil to cover the pan. Place the potato on a plate and using a fork, smash it until it had broken up, but it still chunky. Add the potato to the hot pan, using a spatula to press it down.

Scatter the bacon on top and place small pieces of the butter across the top of the potato and bacon. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Cook until the potato is golden at the bottom, then use the spatula to turn the potato and bacon over, to allow it to brown on the other side. The potato will break apart as you do this. Don’t stress, that’s what’s supposed to happen.

Once the bacon is cooked and parts of the potato are crispy – it’s ready to serve with your favourite meal.

Hope you enjoy this recipe. As I said, it’s not pretty, but mostly importantly, it’s yummy, relatively quick and something a bit different.

What kinds of side dishes do you normally cook? Are you sometimes left stumped for ideas? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!

Be Inspired~

Lisa

Mystery solved!! Why kids (and adults) won’t eat vegies


When I was consulting my expert about what vegetables are in season for this blog post, I dreaded to mention the one at the top of the list. This poor little guy has such bad PR, I thought all my readers would be driven away – perhaps forever!

But, if everyone could look past their childhood nightmares and give this little vegie of goodness the love it deserves – I promise you and your kids are very, very likely to enjoy them (I won’t say definitely, because there are no guarantees in life!).

In fact, I know many people who HATE a plethora of vegetables. More commonly: Cauliflower, broccoli, pumpkin, beans, peas (I admit, this is the only real vegetable I don’t like), spinach/silverbeet …

And finally, the subject of today’s post:

BRUSSEL SPROUTS!

I know most of you are making a face at your computer screen right now and are tempted to just click the ‘close’ button and think of happier things, like chocolate … but please, read on, especially if you are a parent who is trying to get your kids to eat any sort of vegetable, even the ones you know you don’t even like … like Brussel sprouts.

I actually don’t think I know anyone who loves these little green balls – other than myself and my mum. The rest of my family happily eat them – but mum and I LOVE them … and do you know why?

Well, it’s all about how they are cooked! My mum had a real knack with cooking vegetables when we were kids (she still does!) – and this made our perception of them totally different to that of most of the kids I grew up with – and so many of the grown ups I know today.

I realised that it’s actually quite common for people to dislike or refuse to eat a whole range of vegies. I was surprised! But once I asked them why, a pattern started forming. Most people didn’t like vegies like Brussel spouts, brocoli and cauliflower because they thought of them as soggy and tasteless. This tells me that their issue has nothing much to do with the vegetables themselves.

It’s the cooking process that’s the problem, with most people I spoke to recalling how their mum’s boiled them forever in a pot of water on the stove, or had made the poor food do a few to many circles in the microwave. They were then plonked on the plate, with no love, care or attention (also known as seasoning). I mean look at this piece of broccoli as an example … who would want to eat this sorry-looking soggy thing? 

YUCK!!

But if you were served this … do you think you’d feel a bit differently about putting it in your mouth?

 Doesn’t this look so different to the first example?

Now if you aren’t a lover of these vegetables now, because you are used to boiled lumps of yuckiness – then I know even the latter version probably doesn’t look like a meal made in heaven. But I can tell you this now, with some love, in the form of sauteing these babies in a frying pan with some olive oil, pieces of bacon and some salt and freshly ground black pepper and a twist of lemon juice – you are VERY likely to enjoy every floweret of flavour they have to offer.

Don’t make your kids eat the same boiled crap you did when you were a kid. Just because it’s a side-dish and it’s healthy, it doesn’t deserve some care and attention before making it to the plate. It takes hardly any more time to inject a little flavour – and best of all – it’ll take less time to cook them too. A slight crunch and the bright, vibrant green colour is what you’re after, and it only takes 3 or 4 minutes to achieve it – not 10 or more in the microwave.

Now to share my mum’s trick with Brussel sprouts:

  • 15 Brussel sprouts
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of butter
  • freshly ground black pepper, and salt, to taste

Method:

Remove the outer leaves from the sprouts, especially if they look a bit discoloured. Remove the stalky bit at the bottom and then chop the sprout into three pieces.

In a medium saucepan, place the spouts, water and chicken stock over a high heat, until the water starts to steam and boil. Stir the Brussel sprouts around in the water a stock cube mixture. They will start to loosen and go bright green. Do this for about 4 or 5 minutes, or until the spouts are tender BUT NOT OVERCOOKED!! You won’t need to cook them for longer than 7 minutes.

Take the spouts off the heat, and add the butter, pepper and you can add some salt, if needed (the stock cube would have added some salt).

Serve with your favourite meat. I love these with a nice juicy steak. This cooking method also works well for broccoli too 🙂

I know there are a million recipes you’d rather try before you do this one – but I promise, it’s super yummy! I know the butter adds calories to what would otherwise be a healthy meal – but if you can’t get anyone to eat their vegies, a bit of butter to ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals of foods like Brussel sprouts and broccoli – then I reckon it’s worth it. This is the method my mum used to get my brother and I to LOVE our vegies. I know she was really on to something here!

Do you think you’ll give this a go with your kids, and for some vegies you don’t like? What things have you tried before to make vegies more yummy? Leave your comments below. I’m sure there’s plenty of people who would love your tips too!

Be Inspired~

Lisa

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