Learning to cook seasonally and live more sustainably

Cauliflower and Potato Subzi

There was a beautiful head of cauliflower in my vegie box this week, and after a couple of weeks of struggling for dinner inspiration, I’m all ready for a Tuesday Night Vego Challenge!
Some time ago, my husband bought me a wonderful cookbook simply called Curry, and it’s a wonderful collection of curry (and curry-like) recipes from India (north and south), Pakistan, South East Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Britain and Japan. It’s written by a range of authors, so each section is authentic, but the recipes have been written with a western home cook in mind – the ingredients are generally ones you can find with little effort. The book also includes a range of side dishes, breads and condiments. If you like curries, it’s a great book to have in your collection.
A subzi generally refers to a vegetable curry from India or Pakistan. They’re quick, fresh and use seasonal vegetables. This is a “dry” style curry – more like a plate of spiced vegetables, rather than the saucy versions you make with coconut milk. Very light and perfect for a Tuesday night.

Cauliflower and Potato Subzi
500g cauliflower, cut into florets
500g kipfler potatoes, sliced (I left the skin on)
1 onion
1 punnet grape tomatoes, halved
1 tsp crushed garlic (2-3 cloves)
1 tbsp chopped ginger root
½ tsp ground tumeric
1 pinch chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt  and pepper
1/2 cup water
1 handful fresh coriander
2 tablespoons coconut oil*
Heat the oil and gently fry the spices, onion until the onion has softened. Add the tomato, garlic, ginger, and season with salt and pepper. Fry until the tomatoes have started to soften. Add the cauliflower and potato, pour over the water and cover with a lid. Cook for 20 minutes or until the potato is tender. Stir through some chopped coriander before serving immediately.
We ate this with some steamed brown rice and a mint raita.
*I havet a jar of virgin coconut oil and it works brilliantly in curries as a substitute for ghee. It does have a high quantity of saturated fat, but supposedly has high amounts of lauric acid, which has antioxidant properties. Not sure if it’s a miracle food like some people claim, but it does taste amazing (and can be used as a dairy-free substitute for butter in baking).

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!
This year I’ve managed to avoid the chocolate frenzy that usually happens this time of year. The toddler is still too small to realise that all the shiny things in the shops have chocolatey goodness inside. I suspect next year will be a different matter. He has, however, been devouring his own weight in hot cross buns, so I had to make some for him (and the rest of the family).
I made some fabulous ones either last year or the year before (I can’t remember) but I couldn’t find the recipe again. This current batch turned out very well and were very easy, so I’m recording it for next year! I think using the bread mix worked really well – I think I’ll be using this approach again to make things like cinnamon buns or finger buns.
Hot Cross Buns (makes 16)
1 600g packet of Laucke Crusty White Bread Mix for Breadmakers (includes yeast sachet)
300mL milk
1 tablespoon treacle
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon mixed spice
1 egg
200g dried mixed fruit
100ml melted butter
For the crosses:
3 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp water
½ tsp sugar
For the glaze:
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp powdered gelatine
2 tbsp water
Heat the milk to warm (around 38°C) and mix in the yeast sachet and the treacle. Set aside for 10 minutes until the mix is frothy.
Mix the flour, fruit, spice and sugar in a large bowl. Add the milk mixture, the egg and melted butter and mix to form a slightly sticky dough. Sprinkle with flour as necessary and knead until the dough is smooth. Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to rise either overnight in the fridge, or at room temperature for 2-3 hours until it has at least doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and knead it again, then divide into 16 balls and place into a baking tin lined with baking paper. Allow the buns to rise again for 30 minutes, then brush with some milk. Mix the flour, water and sugar for the crosses – it should be a thick paste. Use a piping bag to pipe on the crosses, then bake at 180°C for 25-30 minutes until the buns are golden and sound hollow when tapped.
To make the glaze, mix the water, sugar and gelatine, then heat in the microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Brush the hot mix over the buns as soon as they come out of the oven.
Best eaten while still warm and spread with butter.
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Birthday Cake

It was my birthday last week, and my little brother bought me a cake from Adriano Zumbo. It’s called a Red Velvet Cake. It’s layers of raspberry cake and jelly with a cream cheese frosting and a red sprayed on coating. It’s a cheesecake on steroids.


Chilli and Garlic Sauce

My quest to preserve all of this season’s chillies continued today, with a HOT chilli and garlic sauce. I left a lot of the seeds in the chillies, so this will be something that I will have to add very sparingly to meals until we get used to it.

Hot Chilli Sauce

I had enough chillies to make 1 cup of paste. I made approximately 2 1/2 cups of sauce, enough to fill two and a half small jars.

Place chillies and garlic cloves in a small blender or food processor, and process until finely chopped (try not to breathe any in). In a sauce pan place a cup of sugar, a couple of tablespoons of vinegar, and a couple of tablespoons of salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and add the chilli and garlic paste and some water. Bring to a boil (and open the windows), then add some tapioca or cornstarch mixed with a little water to thicken. Ladle into hot sterilised jars and seal using your preferred method.

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Brown Rice Pumpkin Risotto

It’s been two weeks since I posted a Tuesday Night Vego Challenge, so I was determined to post one today. We’ve switched all our white rice for brown and it’s been a good decision. We’re eating less and feeling better for it. Tonight I’m using a Barbara pumpkin, which is a cross between a butternut and a jap (two of my favourite varieties). I’ve left some of the skin on for extra colour and goodness.

Oozy Risotto with Brown Rice is possible!

 Pumpkin Risotto with Brown Rice
The creamy consistency of risotto comes from the starch of the rice, plus a good amount of butter and cheese added at the final stage of cooking. I’ve left out the butter, and the pumpkin adds to the sauce. The longer you leave this to cook, the creamier it will be – mine took about an hour. Stir, stir, stir!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 tap crushed garlic
1 cup medium grain brown rice
1 glass white wine
400g diced pumpkin
1L vegetable stock
Freshly ground pepper
A handful of fresh thyme
½ cup grated pecorino cheese

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat. Add garlic and onion ans saute until the onion is soft. Add the rice and gently fry the rice for 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it has been absorbed. Continue cooking and stirring, adding spoonfuls of stock gradually. Halfway through the cooking, add the pumpkin, pepper and thyme. Stir the risotto often to tease out as much starch as possible. When the rice is cooked and the pumpkin is a little overcooked, stir through the cheese. Put the lid on the pot and take off the heat. Let the risotto sit for 5 minutes to rest before serving. Serve with an extra sprinkle of pecorino on top.


Muesli Bars

Another addition to my attempts at making some kid-friendly (and mum-friendly) snacks. Muesli bars can have a lot of fat and refined sugar in them (even home made versions), so making your own gives you more control over the ingredients, and also the portion size. I’m aiming for a much softer and smoother texture than you would normally expect, suitable for a little tot who can’t chew whole oats. This is the first time I’ve used chia seeds in a recipe!
I’m using a brownie  tray (17cm x 27cm) to make these.
Muesli Bars (makes approx 16 small bars)
½ cup wholemeal plain flour
½ cup ground oats (I put oats in the coffee grinder to make a fine meal)
¼ cup white chia seed
¼ cup ground almond meal
¼ cup dessicated coconut
½ cup each of dried apricots, dates and apples
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup virgin coconut oil
¼ cup apple juice concentrate
Preheat oven to 170˚C, and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the dried fruit in the food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the fruit mix to the dry ingredients and mix. Add the egg, coconut oil and apple juice concentrate and mix. Press the mixture into the baking tray and smooth the top.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden on top. Cut into small squares or bars. Store in an airtight container.
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Mushrooms stuffed with Cottage Cheese

It’s time for another Tuesday Night Vego Challenge!

I love stuffed mushrooms, and do not make them often enough. These ones make the most of some delicious herbs from my garden. This is a low calorie meal but it’s very tasty.

Mushrooms stuffed with Cottage Cheese (serves 2)

2 large flat mushrooms
200g low fat cottage cheese
¼ cup finely chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, garlic chives)
salt and pepper
½ small red onion
4 sun dried tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180˚C, and line a baking tray with baking paper. Heat a small non-stick frying pan over a medium heat.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and place the mushroom caps on the baking tray. Some recipes suggest you peel them and remove the gills, but I don’t bother – why waste anything? Just make sure they’re clean by wiping with a damp cloth.

Finely dice the mushroom stems, red onion and sun dried tomatoes and sauté in the frying pan with the olive oil until the onion is soft. Remove from the heat and place the cooked vegetables into a bowl. Add chopped herbs, cottage cheese and season with salt and pepper. Mix gently and scoop the mixture into the mushroom caps.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked and the cheese is golden on top. Serve with a green salad (and some crusty sourdough if you like, but we’re on a low carb diet).

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Stir Fried Veggies Two Ways

Tuesday night! Time for another Tuesday Night Vego Challenge!
This week’s in season veggies are a bunch of Kang Kong, or Water Spinach, Eggplant, Tomato, Basil and Chilli.
Given that I have chillies galore coming in at the moment, I feel like something spicy for dinner. So we’re having two stir fried veggie dishes with some steamed brown rice.

Drying chillies in the dehydrator

Sambal Kang Kong
Kang kong is an asian green vegetable. In Indonesia it’s often stir fried in a pungent paste of chillies, garlic, dried shrimp, and fermented shrimp paste called belacan. I must admit that I’m not a fan of having really stinky things in my cupboard, so I’m making a vegan version using miso paste instead of the shrimp paste to give lots of umami flavour. The sambal paste makes any stir-fried green vegetable absolutely delicious (and it’s also good for tofu). Like all soft green leafed vegetables, a big bunch of kang kong will wilt to almost nothing. My bunch only just fed two.

Kang Kong

1 bunch kang kong
1 pinch sugar
1 pinch salt
1 long red chilli
1 small hot chilli
1 tsp miso paste
1 eschallots
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon red bullhorn chilli

You can de-seed the chillies if you are a chilli wimp, but I left them in this time. Place the chillies, eschalots, miso and garlic in a small food processor and blend until finely chopped. My paste came out like a puree.

Frying the paste

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok, then gently fry the sambal paste until fragrant – you don’t want the heat too high, or else you will end up with a house full of chilli fumes and bitter burnt garlic. Take your time doing this – you want to evaporate any water out of the paste to the point where it just starts to darken in colour.
Add the kang kong, sugar and salt and stir fry until tender and wilted. 

Stir Fried Eggplant with Egg and Tomato

I used this lovely recipe at, with the only change being to use some fresh basil leaves instead of dried ones. Very tasty, and a nice mild contrast to the strong flavours in the sambal. I’d even eat this one for breakfast.

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Apple Pikelets for Shrove Tuesday

Today is Shrove Tuesday. The little boy ate several of these apple pikelets for his morning tea. The custard powder gives the pikelets a lovely vanilla flavour and a nice yellow colour.

½ cup self raising flour
1 tablespoon custard powder
2 tbsp sugar
1 egg
¼ cup milk
pinch of cinnamon
6 dried apple rings, diced
2 tsp melted butter

Mix the flour, custard powder, and sugar in a bowl. Add the egg and blend until it forms a smooth paste. Add milk and mix to form a smooth, thick batter. Add cinnamon and apple.

Cook in a non-stick frying pan brushed with melted butter. This made about 8 pikelets.

Time: 15 minutes

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Turkey Meatloaf

Maybe you’re like me, and trying to stick to a budget and save some money after the black hole that is ChristmasNewYearSummerHolidaysBaby’sBirthday.

When it comes to food, meat is an easy target when it comes to saving money. You can buy cheaper cuts of meat on the bone and slow cook them into a tender curry, stew or casserole, then freeze the leftovers for other meals, you can skip the meat altogether and get your protein from tofu or legumes, or you can buy mince and learn ways to make it interesting!

Mini Meatloaf
with braised red cabbage, beans and
potatoes with home-grown pesto

Meatloaf is a good way to make mince go a bit further by adding breadcrumbs, veggies, herbs or even dried fruit and nuts. There are lots of great recipes, and the flavours are limited by your imagination. I’m even being super lazy and putting everything in the food processor so I can catch up on the washing up! Making individual meat loaves means you have some easy leftovers for lunch the next day. If you don’t have a mini loaf tin, a muffin tin works well too!

Turkey Meatloaf

500g turkey mince
1 small red onion
1 clove garlic
1 small handful thyme leaves
1 handful parsley
1 grated carrot
1 handful dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)
1 handful blanched almonds
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
salt and pepper

This is order to put things into the food processor. Give everything a blitz in between, scraping down the bowl as needed.
onion and garlic
grated carrot
cranberries and almonds
herbs and breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
mince and eggs

Blend until the mixture is very smooth, then divide among an 8-loaf mini loaf tin. Bake in the oven at 180˚C for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. You can glaze the tops by brushing with some barbecue sauce or cranberry sauce that has been melted in the microwave (do this half way through the cooking time, and again once they come out of the oven). My mixture made 6 loaves, and a couple of mini rissoles for the toddler.

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