Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Banana Crumble Muffins

Noel has annual leave this week and it was so nice to come home to dinner already cooked for us (Noel cooked Shepherds Pie - a family favourite) .... so with nothing else to do I had a "Stepford Wife" moment and decided to do some baking.  I really enjoy baking but find myself so time poor at times that it is impossible to squeeze the extra enjoyable activity in unless I have nothing to do or I get bored.
So with the urge to bake then came the huge decision of what to bake??  Looking across to the fruit bowl I spotted a few bananas left from last weeks' shop (so they were nice and ripe).  Banana muffins came to mind but I didn't want to make just the normal banana muffins - you know the boring ones with no character or define flavour.  Searching through recipe books and googling I remember that I had recently come a different recipe on the Rachael Ray website.
Ok armed with all the ingredients I went ahead and made Banana Crumble Muffins... Perfect Banana Crumble Muffins.  Oh and WOW they were perfect...
Moist on the inside, crunchy crumble topping... so nice especially while still a little warm.  Definitely a flavour explosion in your mouth.  The crumble topping will be used again on other fruit muffins but this recipe is a keeper.

Banana Crumble Muffins
(recipe adapted from Rachael Ray)

Makes 12 muffins
Smart Points Per Serve: SP Warning

Crumble topping
3/4 cup plain flour
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons cold reduced fat butter (cut into small pieces)

1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 medium, ripe bananas
1 egg
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, light brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt. Then with your hands, work in the butter until large clumps form. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.

In another bowl, mash the bananas. Add egg, oil and vanilla and mix well.

Combine the dry and wet ingredients and stir until it just comes together

Fill prepared muffin tins halfway then evenly distribute crumble topping over the muffins.

Bake muffins for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mexican Beef and Bean Pasta Bake

Once again it's been a long time between blogs.... I am finding myself with more and more excuses keeping me away from something that I really enjoy doing.  Life has been so busy with March and April it actually quite embarrassing.  With a daughter turning 15 and a son turning 18, both having parties and family get togethers to help celebrate all while the footy season has started once again.  There should really be no major time issues as it's not its the first year that this has ever happened - it just seems to get harder and harder each year even though these things happen year in year out?  Maybe when I'm old and grey sitting at home bored I will get to answer my own questions....  until then I must soldier on and enjoy what I can which as you all know is cooking and blogging.
I've decided being so time poor I do need to focus on weeknight wonder dishes - ones that take minimal preparation and more importantly minimal time while still satisfying the tastebuds.  Saying this, at the moment some nights I would more that happily eat beans on toast with a fried egg on top - one of my favourite meals of all time, believe it or not!
One of my favourite flavours of all times is Mexican and both the kids love pasta so this dinner was a no-brainer when it came to knowing that it would be a hit in the Murray household.  Not only was the flavour perfect but this Mexican Beef and Bean Pasta Bake fit perfectly into the requirements of easy, quick and tasty.  Surprisingly it was bursting with flavour considering the minimum effort required.
I used my homemade taco seasoning rather than the packaged version but that was by my choice.  It has none of the preservatives or additives and while it adds a more authentic taste to the dish it's also bursting with flavour.  We like it a little more spicy so I did actually add extra by doubling the quantity required. 
Even though this was a simple recipe the bake is jam-packed with vegetables making it a perfect serving but it could easily be served with a nice green salad. 

Mexican Beef and Bean Pasta Bake
(recipe adapted from Weight Watchers Australia)

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per serve: 11

500 grams lean beef mince
cooking spray spray
200 grams pasta of your choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
1 medium red capsicum, coarsely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
30 grams homemade taco seasoning or packet taco seasoning 
400grams canned diced tomatoes
2 medium zucchini, chopped
240 grams canned red kidney beans, rinsed, drained
180 grams canned corn kernels, drained
60 grams 50% Less Fat Tasty Cheddar Cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced. Lightly spray a 2L (8-cup) capacity ovenproof dish with oil. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, following packet instructions, or until just tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and capsicum and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened. Add mince and cook, breaking up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until browned. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant.

Stir in taco spice mix and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, zucchini and ½ cup (125ml) water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until zucchini is just tender and mixture has thickened. Add pasta, beans and corn and mix to combine.

Spoon mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden. Serve.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Slow Cooked Barbecue Beef Brisket

Well I have admit when we purchased some beef brisket on special I wasn't quite sure what to do with it.  It's not a common cut here in Australia however I did know that it is widely cooked in America therefore finding a recipe or some ideas on cooking it wouldn't be to had thanks to my good friend Google.

After much learning,  many recipes and then some more, I decided to wing it and cook something very loosely based on a combination of recipes.  So after putting it all together, putting the slow cooker on I crossed my fingers and went to work.  The outcome would be a surprise, whether good or bad, when I walk back in the door tonight.

And a surprise it was... a beautiful aroma had encompassed the house.  Great I knew that I had nailed the sauce element but what about the meat?  What about this brisket -  that cut of meat that I have never cooked with before?

The brisket itself, is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest and is normally tough cut of meat. There seems to be two very popular methods to cooking this interesting cut.  Firstly the meat is rubbed with a spice rub or marinated, then cooked slowly over indirect heat from charcoal or wood, hence somewhat smoking the meat. Brisket is also cooked in a slow cooker on a low setting for usually 8 hours per 2 kgs of meat.  This also tenderizes the meat due to the slow cooking method and the fact it is normally enveloped in a sauce to keep it tender.

Now of course I ended up using a mixture of both methods - I rubbed it in a spice mix, then put it in the slow cooker covering it with a sauce and set the timer for 8 hours on low.  Once cooked I gave the family the choice of sliced meat with mash and vegetables or burritos and looking at the picture you can automatically tell what they chose..... burritos!!  So I actually shredded the cooked beef and then mixed through the sauce rather than slicing it.

However way you plan to eat this I am sure you will enjoy.  It had a wonderful depth of tomatoes with the right amount of flavour and heat from the spices.  The liquid smoke lightly laced the sauce with gave it quite an authentic American/Mexican style that we are delivered here in Australia.

Slow Cooked Barbecue Beef Brisket

Serves: 8
SmartPoints per Serve: 8

3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black  pepper
2 kilograms beef brisket, all visible fat trimmed
2 red onions, small dice
1 440 gram tin diced tomatoes
3/4 cups tomato ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup beef stock
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoon water 

In small bowl, mix brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Place brisket in slow cooker and rub mixture all over brisket.  Cover with diced onion.

In another small bowl, mix the tomatoes, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, stock and liquid smoke. Pour over brisket along with broth.

Cover and cook on the low heat for 8 hours or until meat is tender.

Transfer brisket to cutting board and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place all the sauce in a small saucepan.  Combine the cornflour and water.  Add to sauce and stir to combine.  Heat over medium heat, until boiling and slightly thickened.

Thinly slice brisket or shred; transfer to serving plate. Spoon sauce over top or if shredded mix through.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Florentine Pasta

Tonight we wanted some good ol' comfort food but it needed to be quick and easy for a mid week wonder.  At the moment there never seems to be enough hours in each day.  Even our well planned days are not being executed like we would wish but then again we are making the most out of each day so that is the most important thing, right?

So many times I have mentioned having a craving for comfort food.  I understand that everyone's comfort food is different.  For us I do believe it is pasta (of any description).  What's your comfort food?

Speaking of pasta that's what was served up tonight.  This creamy pasta dish was a perfect fit with minimal ingredients and fuss to put a well received meal on the table.  A cheesy sauce laced with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and chicken pieces was filling and while very yummy satisfied even my fussiest eater!  I have one child that does not like the texture of cooked baby spinach nor does she like sun-dried tomatoes but her plate was pretty much licked clean.

Creamy Sun-dried Tomato and Chicken Florentine Pasta

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per serve: 12

250 grams pasta of your choice
2 tablespoons butter
500 grams chicken fillet, all visible fat removed, diced
1 brown onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/2 cup No Oil sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
4 cups Baby Spinach leaves, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup low fat cream
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Heat butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add chicken and onions. Cook for 5 - 7 minutes or until chicken is slightly browned and cooked through. Add garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add cream and stock; stir to incorporate. Toss in chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in spinach and cook until wilted.

Pour over pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, toss and serve.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Slow Cooked Asian Beef Ribs

When you are time poor nothing is more rewarding than working in the front door to the smell of dinner already cooked (or cooking). Thank God for Slow Cookers, right?

This recipe had very minimal effort required first thing this morning but had maximum flavour when it came to sitting down and eating after a very busy day indeed.  Beside work there was also football training and picking up my car from the mechanics after having the brakes down, along with a very fitting funeral service for my Uncle Ted.  My uncle passed peacefully last Wednesday and his final farewell was today.

Needless to say walking in the door was bliss to know I only had to boil rice!

These ribs were melt in your mouth!  The tender juicy meat falling of the bone enveloped with a slightly sweet sauce with the undertones of chilli and star anise - it's a flavour combination that I love. 

I guess you could quite easily use pork rashers or ribs and achieve the same outcome or even perhaps chicken cutlets or lamb shanks as this sauce would definitely compliment any meat.

Slow Cooked Asian Beef Ribs
(Recipe adapted from Food.com)
Serves: 8
SmartPoints per Serve: 11

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, crushed
1⁄4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 whole star anise
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons sake
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to suit your taste)
2 kilograms short beef ribs
1 brown onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped

Mix together soy sauce, ginger, garlic, hoisin sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, orange juice, star anise, oyster sauce, sake, five spice and cayenne pepper in the slow cooker vessel.

Add beef ribs, onion and carrots.  Toss to ensure all beef ribs are coated in the sauce mix.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius.  Remove ribs and vegetables to an oven proof dish and place in oven to keep warm.

Pour sauce into a separate jug. Allow fat to separate and skim as much off the top.

Place sauce in a small saucepan.  Bring to the boil and reduce to medium heat.  Combine water and cornflour together.  Mix combined cornflour into sauce, continually stirring, until slightly thickened.

Pour sauce over ribs, sprinkle with coriander and serve with steamed rice (add 4 SP per 1/2 cup, if desired).

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hunan Beef with Cumin


Hooray for me - I have done it.  I've sat down, eaten and enjoyed our dinner and then amazingly found time to share it with you.  Sorry for the long delay but the new job which I started on the 18th of January has had my head in a spin along with all the multitude of things we have been doing recently.  I actually thought I would of had a smooth transition to the new job and I did.  In fact I now have more time due to less work hours but yet I seem to be struggling to cope with finding "ME" time.  

To be totally honest I cannot believe that we are more than half way through February... YIKES!!
Anyways I have to say since the beginning of the year our eating has been out of control (definitely no dieting happening in our house) so its been a food fest which, of course, means lots of comfort foods, lots of quick dinners, and the odd takeaway here and there!!  We definitely need to get back on track.
Tonight I wanted something full of flavour, easy, quick and of course, healthy.  Well at least healthier than I have been eating.

As well know by everyone, we love cooking Asian style dishes so this one from the Hunan Region excited our tastebuds by just reading about it.  The Hunan Region is located in South Central China, south of the middle course of the Yangtze River, and south of Lake Dongting.
Hunan cuisine, known for it's abundant use of chillies, garlic and shallots, is also known as Xiang cuisine. It is one of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese cuisine and is well known for its hot spicy flavour, fresh aroma and deep colour.  Hunan cuisine is often spicier than most other Chinese dishes because or the pure chili content.  The meals also contain a larger variety of fresh ingredients, and generally tends to be oilier.

After modifying parts of the recipe to reduce the oil content without compromising on the flavour we were happy with the outcome... tender beef strips, crispy vegetables with a sauce bursting with flavours.  Combinations of chilli, garlic, ginger and cumin!!  Magnificent even if a little on the hot side.... but not to the point of breathing fire!

Hunan Beef with Cumin
(Recipe adapted from Serious Eats)

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per Serve: 9

2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or medium-dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornflour
500 grams skirt steak or steak of your choice, cut into thin strips against the grain
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh red chilies, stems and seeds discarded, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried chili flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 brown onion, sliced
1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
100 grams snow peas
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Whisk together wine, soy sauce, cornflour, and one tablespoon water in medium-sized bowl. Add beef to marinade, mix with hands, and let sit for at least 15 minutes at room temperature.

Pour oil into large wok. Heat oil in wok over high heat.  Add beef and cook for two minutes, tossing gently. Remove beef with tongs, and drain on paper towel.

Pour out all but three tablespoons of oil.
Turn heat to high again, and once lightly smoking, add ginger, garlic, chilies, chili flakes, and cumin. Stir constantly with wooden spoon for about 15 seconds.

Add onions and capsicum, stir fry for a further 3 minutes, continually tossing.  Once starting to soften return the beef back to wok.  Add snow peas and coriander.  Cook until beef starts to sizzle, about 1 minute. Stir well and transfer beef to a large plate.

Drizzle sesame oil on top. Serve beef with white rice, if desired.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Italian Sausage and Beef Lasagne

Nothing beats a full plate of Lasagne no matter what language you speak...... 

And I like nothing better than exploring different flavours for Lasagne.  Traditional thick beef sauce with lots of Bechamel sauce is wonderful but sometimes one just needs to look outside the square when it comes to this wonderfully comforting dish.  

I decided, especially after the somewhat recent success of my Italian Sausage and Beef Bolognaise that trying this as the base sauce in a Lasagne would be only the right thing to do!! And trust me it was. 

The flavours were magnificent ... from the underlying flavours of the Italian sausage full of fennel, garlic and chilli, the thick tomato sauce and right through to the thick creamy Bechamel sauce this was definitely a winner.

Italian Sausage and Beef Lasagne

Serves: 8

500 grams Italian sausage, skins removed and cut into small chunks
500 grams lean ground beef
1 brown onions, finely diced
1 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 425 grams tinned diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
700 gram bottle passata (tomato puree)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, grated
1 large zucchini, grated
30 grams butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
500 ml skim milk
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
ground white pepper
8 fresh Lasagne sheets
150 grams grated tasty cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large frying pan cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. 

Transfer to a large saucepan and stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, passata, and water. 

Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, oregano, parsley, salt, and season with freshly ground black pepper. 

Add carrot and zucchini.  Stir well until well combined.  Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile make the Bechamel by adding the butter to a large saucepan.  Cook over medium heat and until completely melted.  Remove from heat.  Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until flour is mixed through and you have a nice soft roux.  Return to the heat and gradually add in the milk, using a whisk mix continually, ensuring it's completely mixed through and that you have no lumps.  Continue with remaining milk.  Leave to simmer over low heat, stirring, until thickened slightly.  Add the mustard and season with salt and pepper.  Stir well. Remove from heat.

Spoon 1/4 beef mixture over base of a lasagne dish. Top with 2 lasagne sheets. Cover with another 1/4 of the beef mixture and then cover with 1/3 of the Bechamel sauce.  Top with another 2 lasagne sheets.  Spread again with 1/4 of the beef mixture and cover with 2 lasagne sheets.  Finally put the remaining beef mixture in the dish and cover with the remaining lasagne sheets. Top with remaining Bechamel sauce over the lasagne sheets and sprinkle with the combined grated cheese.

Cover with foil (spray foil with cooking spray to stop cheese sticking to the foil) and bake in oven for 40 - 45 minutes. Remove foil and cook for a further 5 - 10 minutes until cheese is golden brown.

Serve immediately.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing

Chicken wings are one of the most versatile ingredients and I have to be very truthful I don't use them enough.  They are the ultimate finger food... one little package of their very own ready to cook and dish without much fuss really...... so simple and so underrated.

This is one of our favourite dishes... Hot Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing.  Now there are many versions of this recipe.. so ours is not gospel or from the original recipe it's just one that we have stumbled across from many attempts - you know good old trial and error!!

Firstly lets get the definition right: From the United States origin a Buffalo wing or Buffalo chicken wing is a chicken wing section that is generally deep-fried, unbreaded, and coated in vinegar-based cayenne pepper hot sauce and butter.

Until you start googling..... then some recipes claim that deep frying the wings is the only way to go. Some spruke that one Hot Sauce is better than the other. Unbreaded or breaded both are delish.... Remove the tip or keep the tip and it simply just goes on and on...

We do not crumb our version however we do give the chicken pieces a light coating of seasoned flour.  We do not deep fry either we bake them in the oven.  We also cook them with the Hot Sauce on and not just pour it over when it's cooked.... 

Bottom line as I said that's how we like them... others may argue.....

Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing

Serves: 4

90 grams blue cheese
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 kilogram chicken wings or drumettes and wingettes
1/3 cup plain flour
ground white pepper
cooking spray
1/4 cup Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce or hot sauce of your choice
20 grams butter, chopped

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Process the blue cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in a food processor until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and set aside.

Place the chicken, flour, salt and pepper in a snap lock bag and seal.  Shake until chicken is completely covered.

Cover a baking tray with baking paper and spray with cooking spray.  Line the chicken in a single layer, shaking off excess flour as you remove from the snap lock bag.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes, turning once, until browned and cooked through.

Place hot sauce and butter in a bowl.  Microwave for one minute or until butter has melted.  Stir well.

Remove chicken from oven and drizzle with hot sauce.  Toss the chicken in tray to coat.  Ensure they are still in one single layer when done.

Return to the oven and cook for a further 5 - 10 minutes or until crispy.

Serve with Blue Cheese Dressing and any left over hot sauce.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Creamy Loaded Herb Potato Bake

So here we are a New Year - another year to see what adventures 2016 will bring for me, my family, my friends and of course, all the foodie bloggers and readers of the world!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to each and all,
Each day during Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall,
Whether you are following a recipe and making it up,
Serving it on a plate, in a bowl or in a cup,
With all your successes and even the duds,
May every mouthful excite your tastebuds!!!

As for the House of Murray - well 2016 has already started with a bang!!  Surrounded over the Festive Season with our family and friends was the perfect way to welcome in the New Year.  All the food and the drinks saw many of us with full (and some sore) bellies for days but more importantly the feeling of love and friendship was, and always is, priceless and something that I cherish.

Food wise our house has been filled with everything from Roast Turkey and Stuffing, Roast Pork and Crackle, Rich Gravy, Vegetables, Steamed Christmas Puddings (we made a lot this year), Mince Pies, a Gingerbread House (made by Alexandria), candy canes, chocolates to champagne, wine, beer and spirits.  Oh my it's been a food-fest!!!!

One thing however that I do get sick of is all the Christmas food... it's rich and filling but after a week or so I just want comfort food or as my kids said one morning "Mam can we please have some normal food?".... made me laugh but also I couldn't agree more.

So today, New Year's Day, needless to say that we did have left overs from last nights celebrations and we were having more family down for a late lunch.  It was decided to use the leftovers consisting of ham, chicken souvlaki, salads and roast potatoes.  Even though I whinge about leftovers I do not like wasting food!!

Roast potatoes... hhhmmmm what's something I could do with them rather than reheating them only for them to go hard and dry out???  I decided I would adapt a few recipes for Loaded Potato Bakes and make my own without using mayonnaise or sour cream.  What did I use instead?  Béchamel Sauce of course.. why not?  Outcome AMAZING.... everyone had seconds although to point the finger my sister in law Clare had 3 serves!!!

Now this was easy to make although a little time consuming it was definitely worth it!!  I would have to say it may now be on the favourite potato bake recipe list!!  Full of a lush creamy herb sauce, bacon, garlic, spring onion and cheese, with a hint of chilli, smothering soft potatoes what more could anyone ask for??  In our case maybe two casserole dishes full of this wonderful creation??  I could have easily just sat there and ate that instead of everything else that was presented for lunch today.

Creamy Loaded Herb Potato Bake

Serves: 8

1 kilogram leftover roasted jacket potatoes
(OR 1 kilogram jacket potatoes, roasted)
500 grams bacon, diced
6 spring onions, sliced
50 grams butter
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 litre skim milk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Franks Hot Sauce
2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
ground white pepper
150 grams grated tasty cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Spray a casserole dish or baking pan with cooking spray and cover the base with the roast potatoes (it doesn't matter if they overlap).

Place in oven for 10 - 15 minutes to warm through.

Meanwhile cook the bacon and 2/3rds of the spring onion in a frying pan over medium heat until bacon starts to brown and onion soften.  Remove from heat.

In a large saucepan add butter.  Cook over medium heat and until completely melted.  Remove from heat.  Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until flour is mixed through and you have a nice soft roux.  Return to the heat and gradually add in the milk, using a whisk mix continually, ensuring it's completely mixed through and that you have no lumps.  Continue with remaining milk.  Leave to simmer over low heat, stirring, until thickened slightly.  Add the mustard, hot sauce, oregano, tarragon and season with salt and pepper.

Remove potatoes from oven.  Sprinkle with the bacon mixture, pour over the béchamel sauce mix and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Bake in oven for 30 - 40 minutes or until cheese has melted and sauce bubbling.

Sprinkle with remaining spring onions before serving.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bobotie ~ aka South African Curried Mince Pie

The name of this dish is definitely an intriguing one... which of course made me want to make it without even reading the ingredients.

It's the national dish of South Africa Bobotie, pronounced ba-boor-tea,  is a pastry free pie made with a filling of curried meat and fruit topped with an egg based custard!

It's very similar, I guess, to a Shepherd's Pie but without the mashed potato topping.  The topping made with eggs and sour cream was creamy and although I was sceptical about it, surprised me with both texture and flavour.

What can I say - overall it was delish and very easy to make something I love on a week night.  I used half mild curry powder and half hot curry powder but the choice is yours depending on your tastes.  The mixture of curry flavours combined with the sweetness of the apple and raisins makes you instantly understand why this is a much loved dish.

Bobotie ~ aka South African Curried Mince Pie
(Recipe sourced from Weight Watchers Double Up Dinners Cookbook)

Serves 8
ProPoints per serve: 8

1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 brown onions, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 kilogram extra lean beef mince
2 teaspoons tumeric
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 green apples, grated
2 carrots, grated
1/2 cup raisins
4 cups passata
2/3 cup low fat sour cream
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 160 degrees Celsius fan forced.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Cook onion and celery, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened.  Add mince and cook, stirring to break up lumps, for 5 minutes or until browned.

Add tumeric and curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant.  

Add carrot, raisins and passata and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.  

Place beef mixture in a large ovenproof dish (or divide between two 1.25L oven proof dishes if you wish to freeze).  Smooth the surface.

Combine sour cream and eggs in a bowl.  Pour sour cream mixture over the mince mixture.  Place bay leaves in the center of each dish.  Bake for 40 minutes or until topping is set.  Serve.

Should you wish to freeze - cool and wrap dish in a double layer of plastic wrap.  Wrap in foil.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  Defrost in fridge overnight.  Reheat in oven preheated to 180 degrees Celsius or 160 degrees Celsius fan forced for 30 minutes or until hot.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Parmigiana

When our daughter was about 7 years old she declared that when grew up and got a job she was going to be a food tester! Not a average food tester though she was going to find the best Chicken Parmigiana in the whole world!  Every time we went out for dinner and there was Parmigiana on the menu you could guarantee that she would order one (and to be honest it's now her favourite fall back menu item).

Today she is 14, currently focused on becoming a Food Scientist and yes, still loves her parmas!

Parmigianas are such an iconic dish here in Australia with many pubs boasting they have the best, or the most different varieties. Chicken fillets either coated in breadcrumbs or not - some with ham, some without ham and then others with an array of different toppings such as Mexican, garlic prawns, fried eggs, bolognaise sauce, and the list just goes on and on.  A few of my favourite variations include Acapulco Chicken, Chicken Pizziola, and Veal Campagnola.

I like experimenting with the idea of this dish also so when I read this recipe I knew it would have to be trialed in the House Of Murray...  and it was wonderful.  The filling soft and flavoursome.  The outside crunchy and covered in a mix of tomato and cheese - what more could you want?

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Parmigiana
(Recipe adapted from Women's Weekly Weeknights Fast and Fabulous Cookbook)

Serves: 4

cooking spray
4 chicken breast fillets, all visible fat removed
40 grams baby spinach leaves
1 1/3 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup plain flour
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups stale breadcrumbs
1 cup bottled tomato pasta sauce or passata
1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius or 180 degrees Celsius fan-forced.

Line a large baking tray with foil or baking paper and spray with cooking spray.

Using a sharp knife cut a pocket into each chicken breast without cutting through or piercing the outside.

In a small bowl combine spinach, ricotta and onion. Mix well to combine.

Fill each pocket with 1/4 of the ricotta mixture, pushing mixture into the pocket to evenly fill the chicken. Secure pocket opening with toothpicks.

Coat schnitzels in flour, shake off excess. Dip in combined egg and milk, then in breadcrumbs.

Place schnitzels on the baking tray, spray with cooking spray and place in oven. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes, turning once.

Place schnitzels in baking dish, top with sauce and cheese. Roast, uncovered, in oven, 10 minutes or until cheese melts.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Beef Keema with Cumin and Currant Pulao

We had a busy evening tonight we doctor's appointments so I needed something quick and easy to prepare and put on the table. This dish perfectly fits both the "quick" and "easy" requirements and has a magnificent satisfying flavour.

Keema  is a traditional South Asian meat dish and it is main ingredient in mince meat, whether lamb or beef which is cooked with spices, peas and potatoes.  The meat mixture is also used as a filling for samosas or naan bread.  This dry style curry dish compliments the Cumin and Currant Pulau with both dishes flavours complimenting each other.  I love the sweetness of the currants against the spiciness of the beef curry.

This weeknight wonder is something we have cooked before and it was totally devoured.  It's somewhat simple but definitely packed with the perfect combination of spices.  The kids actually get excited when I cook this dish and there is generally nothing left for lunches the next day.

Beef Keema with Cumin and Currant Pulao
(Recipe sourced from Women's Weekly Weeknights Fast and Fabulous Cookbook)

Serves: 4
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 small brown onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons dried currants
500 grams lean beef mince
2 teaspoons mild or hot curry powder (depending on taste)
1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
1/4 cup water
4 green onions, sliced thinly
2/3 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup firmly packed fresh coriander leaves

To make pulao, heat half the oil in large frying pan. Cook brown onion, garlic and spices, stirring, until onion softens. Add rice, cook, stirring, until rice is coated in spice mixture. Stir in stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 12 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in currants; stand, covered, about 5 minutes or until rice is tender.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in large frying pan. Add mince and cook, stirring, until cooked through.
Add curry powder and ginger; stir until fragrant. Add sauce, the water, green onion and peas. Cook, stirring, until peas are tender.

Serve keema on pulao, sprinkled with coriander.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Chilli Chicken, Mushroom and Pesto Pizza

Nothing beats a Saturday night relaxing with a few drinks and a pizza especially when the pizza is home made and so fresh.

Noel enjoys simple plain and tasty pizzas whereas I tend to experiment a lot with flavours.  I first saw this recipe in one of our many cookbooks a long time ago and knew it would be cooked.  I had to adapt it a little as I am also a huge fan of mushrooms and bocconcini  on pizza and of course, omitted the olive oil from the chicken mixture as it simply does not need it.

The flavour kick was amazing.... chilli and garlic enveloped in freshly shredded chicken, vegetables and cheese with mouthfuls of basil pesto drizzled on the top.  What more could a girl ask for?  Maybe a bigger tummy.....  LOL!!

Chilli Chicken, Mushroom and Pesto Pizza
(recipe adapted from Women's Weekly Weeknights Fast and Fabulous Cookbook) 

Makes: 1 large pizza
Serves: 4

1 ball of Noel's pizza dough or a shop brought base
1 skinless chicken fillet
cooking spray
1/4 cup tomato paste
50 grams grated tasty cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 brown onion, thinly sliced
100 grams button mushrooms, sliced
100 grams cherry tomatoes, sliced thickly
100 grams baby Bocconcini
1/4 cup basil pesto

Make dough as per recipe.

Place 2 cups water in a small saucepan and bring to boil over medium - high heat.  Add chicken, season with salt and pepper, and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.  Drain and allow to cool.  Once cool, shred chicken into small pieces.

Preheat pizza oven to 280 degrees Celsius or oven to 240 degrees Celsius or 220 degrees Celsius fan-forced.

Spray pizza tray with cooking spray.

Roll out dough and place on pizza tray or place pizza base on tray.

Spread dough or pizza base with the tomato paste and sprinkle over the grated cheese.

Combined chicken, chilli flakes and garlic in a small bowl. Arrange chicken mixture, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes over pizza. Top with Bocconcini.

Bake pizzas for 10 minutes in pizza oven or 15 minutes in oven or until browned lightly and bases are crisp.

Drizzle pizza with with pesto and serve.

Noel's Pizza Dough

Since Noel received the pizza oven for his birthday in April we have been experimenting with pizza's naturally. It's been fun with trying all different bases from using shop brought to making our own. And while some have been disastrous and messy its been great entertainment to say the least!

A lot of research has gone into our pizza capers - both reading (thank God for Google) and by trial and error.  Definitely the flour has a lot to do with it.  We have purchased some Italian Pizza Flour, which is a high protein flour. According to Lighthouse Baking great dough comes from using a flour with a protein level of 12%. The high gluten level in the flour gives the dough a good elasticity and robustness. Gluten is the key to great pizza dough; it forms strands which bind together like a web during the mixing and kneading process, air bubbles are trapped in this web and expand during cooking allowing the pizza dough to rise. During baking the stretched gluten becomes rigid as the moisture evaporates from the heat of the oven and sets the dough structure. (Not good if you are gluten intolerant - sorry).

However I take my hat off to pizza dough makers - it's not easy that's for sure.  To be honest I think we both started this "dough"quest thinking how hard could it be?  Some flour, some yeast, some water..... well here is the thing... it is HARD!!  

One of my all time favourite pizza bases is at La Camera (I would love to meet the chef there) where their Garlic and Cheese Pizza is to die for.... so soft but not too thick either.  As you can imagine every time we mix a new batch of dough I am thinking about this pizza and praying ours comes out the same... tonight it was very close so we were both really happy.

We are not at the point of spinning the dough to stretch it or throwing it in the air like in the movies but we are getting somewhere with our dough making skills......

Noel's Pizza Dough

Makes: 4 large pizza bases

650 ml lukewarm water
17 grams instant yeast
1 tablespoon caster sugar
900 grams pizza flour
100 grams semolina
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a medium jug combine water, yeast and sugar.  Mix well and allow to stand until yeast is fully dissolved.

Place flour, semolina and salt into a large bowl and mix to combine.  We used the blender with the flat paddle but wooden spoon will be fine.

On speed number 1, if using blender, add half the water and mix until it starts to form a dough.  Add remaining water and continue to mix until a smooth dough starts to form approximately 5 minutes. Change to the dough hook and continue to mix dough for a further 10 minutes.

If using your hands continue to mix until all flour is combined and a smooth, soft and springy dough is formed.

Place olive oil in a large bowl and swirl it around to ensure that all of the inside of the bowl is greased.

Place dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm position.  Allow dough to double in size, approximately 1 1/2 - 2 hours.


Once risen, take out of bowl and divide into 4 balls.  Do not knead.

Spray pizza trays with cooking spray and hand press the dough into shape.

Top with your favourite toppings.

Remaining pizza dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen.  Defrost at room temperature prior to using.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Italian Sausage and Beef Bolognaise

Good ol' Spaghetti Bolognaise just got exciting.  This was absolutely to die for.... and just raised the bar for "Comfort Food".  I would have to say one of my new all time favourite pasta sauces.  The thought of putting Italian sausage into the beef sauce was something I had not thought of doing before although saying this I have made Rigatoni Milano before just using pork sausage as the meat component in the sauce..  

Not the quickest to make but definitely worth all the effort.  The Italian sausages need to be skinned and cut/broken into small bite size pieces before cooking.  As usual I managed to sneak in extra vegetables also these were not that recognizable by the time the sauce had finished cooking - winner on the fussy kid front.

The additional herbs complimented the already existing flavour of the Italian sausage which all enhanced the thick rich tomato sauce.  My favourite undertone was the fennel, both from the sausage flavourings and the fennel seeds but everything combined made my taste buds dance.  

The kids really enjoyed this different sauce even with our son Oliver asking "Please Mam can I can some more?"  

And of course I said..... "Yes you can!

Italian Sausage and Beef Bolognaise

Serves: 8

1 kilogram Italian sausage, skins removed and cut into small chunks
1 kilogram lean ground beef
2 brown onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 x 425 grams tinned diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato paste
700 gram bottle passata (tomato puree)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
3 teaspoons dried basil leaves
2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 carrots, grated
2 large zucchini, grated
400 grams pasta, of your choice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large frying pan cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. 

Transfer to a large saucepan and stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, passata, and water. 

Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, oregano, parsley, salt, and season with freshly ground black pepper. 

Add carrot and zucchini.  Stir well until well combined.  Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.  

When ready to serve, place pasta in serving dishes and top with pasta sauce.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Cheese and Bacon Scrolls

This morning while I was making the kids a treat of Cheesymite Scrolls I thought I would make some Cheese and Bacon Scrolls (using the same dough recipe).  Another favourite of the kids is cheese and bacon rolls.  Have you guessed that we all love bread yet?

Just like the Cheesymite Scrolls these were easy to make (a couple of extra steps to take) but definitely nice to est fresh from the oven.  Perfect for a lunchbox treat also.  Also freezable, so handy to have for a quick snack, lunch or after school treat.

Cheese and Bacon Scrolls
(recipe adapted from The Organised Housewife)

Makes: 10

150 grams bacon, all visible fat trimmed and removed
3 cups Self Raising Flour
pinch salt
50 grams reduced fat butter
1-1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups reduced fat grated tasty cheese

Heat oven to 220 Celsius.

Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. (Or you can use a bench blender on speed 2)

Stir in enough milk to make a soft dough.

Knead on a lightly floured board.

Roll to form a rectangle that is roughly 40cm x 25cm.

Spread tomato paste over the dough using a blunt knife or spatula. Sprinkle bacon over the tomato paste.Sprinkle 1 cup cheese over the top.

Roll up the dough starting from a long side first.

Cut 10 x 4cm pieces from the roll.

Place these pieces close together, cut side up on a greased baking tray. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Cheesymite Scrolls

Both my kids have grown up eating Cheesymite Scrolls - a baked roll of light dough laced with vegemite and cheese. It has long been a quick fix for hungry kids when we are out shopping and we can therefore avoid the dreaded food court at the shopping centre.

Not lovers of vegemite in our house so I have adapted the recipe by using Promite - a yummier (in our opinion) spread which is the equivalent to good ol' vegemite.  

Super easy to make and superb to eat fresh from the oven.  Perfect for a lunchbox treat also.

Another amazing thing about this recipe is that you can freeze individual rolled up scrolls (wrap in plastic wrap and place in a snap lock bag) and allow to defrost prior to baking.  I don't get to do that though as these just get snapped up at our house!!

Cheesymite Scrolls
(recipe adapted from The Organised Housewife)

Makes: 10

3 cups Self Raising Flour
pinch salt
50 grams reduced fat butter
1-1 1/2 cups milk
1-2 tablespoons Promite or Vegemite
1 1/2 cups reduced fat grated tasty cheese

Heat oven to 220 Celsius.

Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. (Or you can use a bench blender on speed 2)

Stir in enough milk to make a soft dough.

Knead on a lightly floured board.

Roll to form a rectangle that is roughly 40cm x 25cm.

Spread promite/vegemite over the dough using a blunt knife or spatula. Sprinkle 1 cup cheese over the top.

Roll up the dough starting from a long side first.

Cut 10 x 4cm pieces from the roll.

Place these pieces close together, cut side up on a greased baking tray. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool, if the kids will let you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Roast Chicken with Bacon and Fresh Herb Stuffing

I've said this a few times but nothing beats a home-cooked roast chicken......... tonight was one of those nights where I just wanted something "Plain Jane" yet full of flavour.  Walking through the supermarket I spotted a bargain.  A whole "chook'' and at a brilliant per kilogram price it was impossible to walk past (Coles have them on special this week for those in Melbourne).

There's really not much to talk about when cooking roast chicken.  You clean it, season it, stuff it (if you wish) and then put it in the oven to roast away.  One good thing about roast chicken is that it does not take as long to cook as the red meat roasts making a mid week roast very possible to organize.

I usually make a Sage and Onion Stuffing but thought I would go for a different spin on the stuffing. This flavour packed bread mix full of fresh herbs (a mixture of what I had on hand) and everyone's favourite bacon scented the chicken meat delicately.

Roast Chicken with Bacon and Fresh Herb Stuffing

Serves: 8

1.6 kilogram whole chicken
6 slices wholegrain bread
2 onions, peeled and finely diced
2 teaspoons garlic, crushed
120 grams bacon, all visible fat removed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons fresh herbs mixed (rosemary, sage, oregano, parsley, marjoram)
1 egg, lightly beaten
extra fresh ground black pepper for seasoning
1/2 - 1 cup water

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Prepare a baking tray with a cooking rack inside.

Clean chicken in cold water, removing any additional skin/fat and inners. Remove from water and drain. Place on workbench and pat chicken skin dry using paper towel also wipe out chicken cavity of any extra water.

Spray a large frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and bacon, cook stirring for 10 minutes or until onion is softened and bacon starting to brown. Set aside and cool.

Using a food processor make breadcrumbs using the bread. Pour into large bowl. Add onion mix and mixed herbs. Mix to combine. Add egg and mix to bind together.

Place stuffing mixture into cavity of chicken. Pushing in firmly to ensure it stays put. Tie legs together if you wish with cooking string.

Season the outside of the whole chicken with salt and pepper.

Place chicken on the cooking rack in the baking dish. Put water in bottom of baking tray filling until base is covered. Cook in the oven for 1 hour or until cooked to your liking and juices run clear.

Serve with your favourite vegetables and gravy if desired.