We’re in lockdown in Sydney, so it’s back to isolation cooking!
The weather is chilly, so perfect for some hearty fare. I found 4 dishes that fit that description, all cheerful and easy to make. Chilli beef, Yorkshire pudding, treacle glazed steak and chicken risotto.
Making your own pasta is so satisfying! Here is a recipe for a couple of different kinds of ravioli. You can use my fillings or create some of your own.
Whether you use a pasta machine to roll your pasta, or roll by hand, it doesn’t take too much effort to create a lovely lunch or simple supper!
The basic recipe for the pasta is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. It’s pretty easy to do and the pasta dough is rich and silky. The quantity makes enough for 12 ravioli.
3 large free-range eggs
300g Tipo 00 flour
Put the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs into the bowl. Break up the eggs with a fork in the well.
Gradually incorporate the eggs into the flour, mixing with your fingertips. Mix until you have combined all the eggs into the flour and you have a rough dough.
To make the Taleggio and Walnut Ravioli, I mixed in a small handful of fresh thyme leaves to half of the dough quantity before the kneading stage.
Now knead both kinds of rough dough until each comes together into a smooth ball, and continue kneading until the dough has been really worked well, and is smooth, soft and silky.
Wrap the doughs in cling wrap. Leave in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour, in order to make it easier to roll and shape.
For each kind of ravioli, use the pasta machine to roll the dough so you have 2 thin sheets. It’s important to roll the pasta sheets so they are very thin; I didn’t quite get the sheets thin enough so the pasta was a little thick.
If unsure about how to roll the dough using a pasta machine, there are plenty of “how-to” videos on YouTube.
You can also roll your dough by hand using a rolling pin. Jamie Oliver’s advice is to roll small pieces of dough, one at a time. Try to get them as thin as you can.
Thyme, Taleggio and Walnuts Ravioli
Combine 100 gms or so of taleggio cheese (any soft rind cheese will do) and a dozen or so walnuts chopped.
Ravioli with Pecorino and Sundried Tomato
Combine 100 gms or so of pecorino cheese (parmesan will work too) and a small handful of chopped sundried tomatoes.
For each kind of ravioli, place 6 small spoonfuls of each mixture on one pasta sheet, allowing for a border when you come to cut the ravioli. Moisten the exposed pasta and put the other pasta sheet on top. Press down to divide the sheets into 6 and, making sure you don’t trap any air with the filling, seal the ravioli edges.
Cut pasta into shapes using a pastry cutter or a sharp knife. I dusted the ravioli with a little flour to help them keep their shape as I wasn’t cooking them for an hour or so.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and put the ravioli in. Cook for 5 minutes until al dente.
For a quick sauce, heat a little butter in a frying pan until the butter foams; pour over both kinds of ravioli and serve with additional shaved pecorino.
I made these originally as pasties, but really, they are little pastries that you fit in your hand. So handpies they have become!
They’re pretty easy to make, using bought puff pastry. But you really need to get the all butter pastry.
Beef and Tomato Handpies
The beef version uses a beef casserole I cook a lot. It’s easy too, but does require a long slow cooking time. The sundried tomato and feta version is simple as the filling doesn’t need cooking.
The filling was some slow cooked beef cheeks, cooked in Pedro Ximinez sherry. I added in a chopped fresh tomato and and handful of chopped sundried tomatoes. I reduced the tomatoes with the cooked beef until the mixture was thick enough to be used a pastie filling.
Recipe for the beef cheeks follows.
For a dozen pies, you would need about 1/3 of the recipe quantity. The rest is great served with mashed potato or pasta, root vegetables or green salad.
1.5 kg beef cheeks 125 ml olive oil 3 carrots, roughly chopped 1 garlicky bulb, halved 1 brown onion, sliced 500 ml Pedro Ximenez sherry or any other sweet sherry 500 ml red wine 3 bay leaves 3 tablespoons thyme leaves 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C or even lower if your oven is hot (like mine).
Trim the beef cheeks to neaten them up and remove any sinew and silver skin. Season well.
Heat half the olive oil in a large heavy-based baking dish over high heat. Brown the beef cheeks for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden, then remove from the pan.
Add the remaining olive oil, then add the carrot, garlic and onion and sauté over high heat for 12-15 minutes, or until well browned. Stir in the sherry, wine, bay leaves, thyme, sea salt and 500 ml water.
Reduce the heat and add the beef cheeks. Cover and place in the oven to cook for 3-4 hours, or until the cheeks are beginning to fall apart.
The sauce from the beef cheeks should by now be reduced and glaze-like. If it needs further reducing, remove the cheeks from the baking dish, cover with foil to keep them warm and simmer the sauce over high heat on the stove top until nicely reduced.
Increase the oven to 190 degrees C. Take 3 puff pastry sheets, and using a plate as a template, cut out 12 20cm circles; you may have to gather up the trimmings and re-roll them to get all your circles. Don’t worry if you don’t get 12; just get as many as you can from the pastry sheets.
Spoon the stew on to one half of each circle. Brush the pastry edges with water, fold the other half of the pastry over the filling to form a half-moon shape and crimp well to seal.
Place the pies on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Eat the pies warm or cold.
Sundried Tomato and Feta Handpies
Simply chopped sundried tomatoes and crumble some soft feta. Add a sprinkling of fresh herbs like coriander or thyme to taste.
The quantities are up to you – I used 6 sundried tomatoes and 3 small pieces of feta to make 2 large pasties from 1 pastry sheet.
Spoon the filling on to one half of each circle. Brush the pastry edges with water, fold the other half of the pastry over the filling to form a half-moon shape and crimp to seal. These pies may open during cooking, but as the filling isn’t liquid, they stay intact.
Place the handpies on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. These ones are best eaten cold.
In Australia, we have a love/hate relationship with the humble choko. To be more precise, there’s probably more of a “hate” thing going on!
The choko, or chayote, a native of South America, is a plant belonging to the gourd family. Chayote was one of several foods introduced to Europe by the Spanish explorers.
It’s the subject of many jokes here, some based on its “bland” flavour and others because last century it grew riotously in backyards over septic tanks and outdoor dunnies!
One of the wonderful exercise physiologists at my gym has a problem: what to do with a huge crop of chokos growing over his fence. I decided to take up the challenge and devise a tasty recipe for his chokos.
This is a versatile and easy way to cook chokos and can be made into your own dish depending on your choice of fillings.
The basic idea is to fry some ingredients and stuff these into choko halves which have been boiled in salted water to an (almost) cooked state. The stuffed chokos with some grated Parmesan are baked in the oven till the chokos are soft and the filling bubbling.
The recipe is for one choko – double, triple or quadruple the recipe depending on the number of chokos you are stuffing.
1 choko, halved
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil + a glug
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder or paste, or to taste
1/2 cup ham or 2 rashers of bacon, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels
1 slice of sourdough bread or similar
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
Place the choko halves in a big saucepan in the stovetop and cover with water. Add the salt and bring to the boil. Cook on a medium to high heat till the chokos are softened but not completely cooked, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and strain. Pat the choko halves dry with paper towel.
While the chokos are cooking, make the filling. Heat a frying pan over medium heat on the stovetop and add the olive oil. Fry the garlic and onion pieces till brown, making sure they don’t burn.
Add the chilli powder or paste and cook, stirring, for another minute.
Add the ham or bacon pieces, stir, and fry till they are just crisp. Add the corn kernels and stir into the mixture. Cook for a couple of minutes.
Add a smell glug of olive oil and add a slice of sourdough bread torn into little pieces. Cook until the bread pieces are just crisp.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C or 180 degrees C fan.
To stuff the choko, place each half in a baking dish and sprinkle the inside of both halves liberally with sea salt and black pepper. Spoon the filling into both halves. Top each half with the grated Parmesan cheese.
Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes to half an hour until the choko halves are soft to the touch, the filling is bubbling and the cheese topping is brown.
Serve on their own or with a salad.
You could use almost any filling you like – leave out the ham/ bacon for a vegetarian dish and add beans or lentils, or add other vegetables apart from corn like tomatoes, celery or zucchini. You probably need the onion or garlic for flavour. And add a whole lot more of any kind of cheese for “ cheesy” chokos!
This beef dish has to be one of the easiest things you can make and full of flavour! I made it last week for Pancake Tuesday celebrations, as a savoury filling for pancakes. Pancakes stuffed with this beef mix were filling and very tasty. Of course it goes well with rice, pasta, polenta or just on its own! Kidney beans add both bulk and flavour to the dish too. Serve it with extra fresh chilli on the side, sour cream or some grated cheese if you’re going Mexican.
You can throw this dish together provided you have some minced beef, as pretty much everything else would be pantry staples.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion
500g good quality beef mince
1 teaspoon chilli paste or chilli powder
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1 x 400g tin of kidney beans
Freshly ground salt and black pepper
Fresh chillies, sour cream, cherry tomatoes, grated cheese, parsley or coriander to serve
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Chop the onion finely, and fry over a medium heat until slightly softened, about 1-2 minutes. Add the beef mince in small spoonfuls, breaking it up so that it cooks evenly. Fry until all the mince is brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chilli paste or powder.
Add the chopped tomatoes, half a tin of water using the chopped tomato tin as a measure and the tomato purée. Drain the kidney beans and add to the frying pan. Season with salt and black pepper. Bring the mixture back to the boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced and has thickened. If the mixture looks too dry, add a splash or two of water.
Once cooked, serve straight away with some of the above accompaniments, or keep in the fridge for a day or so to serve later. It also freezes well.
You could easily double or triple the quantities to serve a crowd or batch freeze for later consumption.
Fritters, savoury pancakes, dumplings and gnocchi. All good vegetarian options involving egg and cheese and/or flour and a hero ingredient or sauce.
This recipe is for ricotta fritters, with a lovely tomato sauce and a tangy zucchini salad. It’s from Jamie’s15 Minute Meals, and it’s light and flavourful and healthy! Super easy too!
The lemon zest and the nutmeg in the fritters give them a slightly exotic flavour.
For the sauce
25g dried porcini mushrooms*
4 anchovy fillets
1 dried red chilli
2 cloves of garlic
700g tomato passata
8 black olives
Half a bunch of fresh basil
For the fritters
1 large free-range egg
400g ricotta cheese
1/4 whole nutmeg, for grating
Zest of a lemon
40g Parmesan cheese
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
For the salad
400g zucchini (courgettes)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh red chilli
Half a bunch of fresh mint
Juice of a lemon
Put the porcini into a mug and cover with boiling water. Crack the egg into a mixing bowl, add the ricotta, finely grate in the nutmeg, the lemon zest and Parmesan, add the flour, then beat together. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a frying pan, then use a tablespoon to spoon in 8 large dollops of the mixture, turning carefully when nice and golden.
Put the anchovies and 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a heavy based casserole, crumble in the dried chilli, and squash in the unpeeled garlic through a garlic crusher. Finely chop and add the porcini with half their soaking water and the passata, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Squash and add the olives. Pick and reserve a few basil leaves, then chop the rest and add to the sauce.
Grate the zucchini in a food processor and tip into a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper, the juice of the zested lemon and the extra virgin olive oil. Finely chop and add the chilli and the top leafy half of the mint, then toss together. Place the fritters on top of the sauce, then scatter over the reserved basil leaves, drizzle with balsamic and serve with lemon wedges.
* I omitted the porcini mushrooms as I don’t particularly like them. I thought the sauce was fine without them!
Trifle is one of those desserts that are a favourite on the big day. Trifle or pavlova are good alternatives to Christmas pud, or can be served alongside the hot pudding as something sweet, creamy and delightfully cold!
I try to devise a different trifle each Christmas. I made this one a couple of years ago and it was delicious – peaches, blackberry and passionfruit are combined with passionfruit curd, meringue and cream and the obligatory cake and custard layers into a light and fruity trifle.
An important note: this recipe may look time consuming because you make the custard, curd and meringue. If you don’t want to do all that work, you can absolutely use bought elements! Christmas is stressful enough without adding extra work!
Layers are important in any trifle, you can really layer this one any way you like.
2 bought sponge cakes (you can make your own but it’s much less time consuming to buy them)
6 yellow peaches, cut into slices Pulp of 3 passionfruit
1/2 cup or to taste of an orange flavoured liqueur. (I used Cointreau and Orange Curaçao)
300ml whipped cream
Meringue Preheat the oven to very slow – 135 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Beat egg whites at low speed with an electric mixer until frothy, add cream of tartar and beat on highest speed until peaks hold their shape. Gradually beat in 2 tablespoons of the measured sugar and continue beating for 2-3 minutes. Add all the remaining sugar at once, fold in quickly and lightly with a metal spoon. Using 3/4 of the mixture, spoon or pipe two discs, each about the size of the diameter of your trifle bowl, onto the prepared trays. With the remaining meringue, colour one half yellow, and put both meringue mixtures into two piping bags. Pipe yellow and plain meringues, as many as the mixtures will make, around the edges of the baking trays where you have placed the discs. Bake the discs and meringues for 1 1/2 hours. Leave in oven for a further 1/2 hour or until dry.
Passionfruit Curd Place all the ingredients into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon, making sure all the ingredients are amalgamated and the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Put aside to cool.
Custard Put the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar into a large bowl and stir together with a whisk. Heat the milk and cream together in a pan until hot but not boiling. Gradually whisk into the yolks, then return the mixture to the pan. Stir over a high heat until the mixture just comes to the boil and the custard thickens. Take off the heat, cover and allow to cool.
Blackberry compote Put the frozen blackberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and gently stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to boiling point, turn the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the fruit is softened and the liquid is reduced. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
Assembling the trifle Line the base of your glass trifle bowl with half the cake, making sure there are no gaps. Liberally sprinkle over half the orange liqueur. Scatter half the piece slices and half the passionfruit pulp over the cake. Spoon the cooled passionfruit curd over the fruit. Now carefully place one of the meringue discs on top of the curd, trimming the edges if it’s too big. Place the rest of the cake pieces on top. If you think there is too much cake, leave some of it out. Sprinkle the cake with the remaining liqueur. Spoon the blackberry compote on top of the cake. Carefully spoon or pour the cooled custard over the trifle, then add the whipped cream. Again, if you think there’s too much custard or too much whipped cream, add a little less. To decorate the trifle, carefully break up the remaining meringue disc into shards big and small (so lots of broken bits don’t matter!). Place the rest of the peach slices and passionfruit pulp around the edge of the trifle and artfully place the meringue shards wherever you like. Then finish by topping the trifle with the individual meringues. This is how I made my trifle – I’m sure there are endless variations to the layering and presentation, so be creative!
Christmas festivities are upon us! While there is a lot of traditional baking to be done, I have decided to go down a slightly different path for a dinner tonight that celebrates Christmas from around the world.
As a big fan of tagines, I decided to create a special Christmas Tagine. Bright with the colours of Christmas, red and green, and deliciously fragrant with Middle Eastern flavours that remind us of the original Christmas story, this beef tagine is full of beautiful veggies too.
Of course, the beef tagine can be eaten at any time of the year! But it can be an alternative to the usual suspects eaten on the day, and would make a great Boxing Day or even New Year’s dish!
I have recently been researching the Keto Diet – not, I hasten to add, on my own behalf – but to better understand what a particular disciple of this low carb program can eat. So I had a go at creating something that might be at least keto friendly, if not actually following all its tenets. I have certainly got to grips with the idea “above ground vegetables good, below ground vegetables bad”!
Here it is. You could substitute some non keto approved below ground veggies like potatoes or carrots, if you like, but they would need to be added in at the start of the recipe, as they take longer to cook. As prunes aren’t probably that great for the Keto Diet, but do add that traditional sweetness to the tagine, you could halve the amount to get the flavour without too much of the sugar. Or leave them out altogether!
2 teaspoons paprika – sweet
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pepper corns – cracked in a mortar and pestle
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g diced shin beef/chuck steak
4 eshallots and 4 spring onions, finely chopped
(Or replace both with 2 large onions)
1-2 garlic cloves, to taste, finely chopped
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1.5 tins water (use the tomato tin as a measure)
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 small eggplant (aubergine), sliced
2 zucchini (courgettes), sliced
100g green olives
Chopped coriander, to decorate
Combine the spices and pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add beef and stir until well coated in the spices. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.
Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.
Heat a heavy based casserole on the stovetop, and add half the olive oil. Add the chopped shallots and spring onions or ordinary onions and cook them for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for a further couple of minutes or until the garlic is softened but not browned. Remove all to a plate.
Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan. Tip in the beef and cook over a fairly high heat until evenly browned and caramelised.
Return the shallots/onion/garlic to the casserole. Add the chopped tomatoes, tins of water and stir well. Add the pomegranate molasses. Stir in a third of the prunes. Lay several slices of the eggplant (about a third of the eggplant) on the top of the mixture. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on and transfer to the oven.
Cook for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and lay the rest of the eggplant slices and the zucchini slices into the casserole, as well as the rest of the prunes and most of the olives, reserving a few for serving. Cook, covered for a further hour or until the beef is really tender.
If you’re not completely satisfied with the tenderness of the beef pieces, you can cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the remaining olives over the tagine, and some coriander leaves.
The tagine should be looking pretty festive with its tomato red and coriander green, but you could add some sliced cherry tomatoes for a little more red or even, if so inclined, a few slices of red chilli!
I was reminded of this red lentil dhal dish I made a et while back, when my food photo exchange friend, a pretty decent cook himself, was talking about Indian dishes and his latest cooking exploits.
It’s a tasty veggie recipe that’s perfect for making sure you get your 5-a-day! And the spices make it delicious and flavourful.
This is a Vegan Sparkles recipes with my tweaks – the link to the original recipe is here.
It’s super easy to make, looks colourful and enticing, and is both vegetarian and vegan. And for us Antipodeans coming into summer, it’s a great dish to serve for an alfresco lunch. And if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, it would make a hearty first course in an Indian style banquet.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 cup sweet potato, chopped into cubes
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp mustard seeds (black or yellow)
¾ tsp ground cayenne pepper
1½ tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp ground coriander
1 clove garlic, chopped
1½ cups dried red lentils
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 tsp honey
1 cup grated and pulped carrot
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup baby spinach leaves
½ tsp nigella seeds
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or frying pan over a medium heat. Add onion and sweet potato and fry gently until onion is soft. Add ginger, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, cumin, turmeric, garam masala coriander and garlic to the pan, and cook, while stirring, until mustard seeds begin to pop.
Add the lentils, stock and water and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the honey. Put the carrot pulp, broccoli and cherry tomatoes into the dahl and simmer for another 15 minutes.
The dahl will be cooked and somewhat reduced. If it’s looks a little too dry, add more water, or if it’s too liquidey, reduce down a bit more.
Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the spinach leaves until they are just wilted. Scatter the nigella seeds just before serving over the dish. They will give an interesting black fleck to the dish!