Monday, June 20, 2016

Oven Baked Leek and Prosciutto Risotto with Gummy Shark

I have had it in my head for the last few weeks that I wanted to make a risotto.  Sadly, as Masterchef Australia has labelled risotto the "death" dish of their competition, I have to say every past attempt that this has been my "death" dish also.  Death obviously not from dying but from failing to create the dish as intended.  Determined as usual I decided to give an oven baked version of risotto a try in hope to put all my epic failed attempts of cooking one of our favourite dishes behind me.
There is nothing better than a plate/bowl full of creamy soft rice that is full of flavour especially when it's home cooked.  Risotto, originating in Italy, can be served as an entrée, main or even a dessert and while there are an abundance of traditional recipes its a dish that can be made using what ever ingredients you have available.

As I planned to serve this risotto with some thick gummy shark fillets I wanted I knew that I wanted something that was bold enough to compliment the fish but not overpower it's flavour.  A balanced combination of leek and prosciutto with a hint of tarragon and some sweetness from the corn kernels made this risotto a perfect partner for the tender gummy shark which was laced with a hint of smokiness.

I challenge anyone who is, like me, haunted by past failed attempts to give this oven baked method a try - you won't be disappointed.

Oven Baked Leek and Prosciutto Risotto with Gummy Shark
(Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers Food You'll Love)
Serves: 6
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 leek, finely sliced
80 grams prosciutto, fat trimmed, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
250 grams Arborio rice
150 grams cherry tomatoes, halved
150 grams corn kernels
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
6 x 200 gram pieces gummy shark or fish of your choice
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
cooking spray
4 tablespoons reduced fata thickened cream

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

Heat oil in a large flameproof casserole dish over medium heat.  Add leek and prosciutto and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until prosciutto is crisp and leek has softened.  Add garlic and tarragon and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Add rice, tomatoes and corn and stir to combine.

Add stock and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.  Cover and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until rice is just tender.

Meanwhile sprinkle fish with paprika.  Lightly spray a large non stick frying pan with oil and heat over medium high heat.  Cook fish for 4-5 minutes each side or until just cooked through.

Remove risotto from oven and stir in the cream.  Serve fish with risotto.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Italian Sausage and Cheese Jalapeno Poppers

There is nothing quite like a quick late night snack.... we had been busy all week and when it was finally the weekend - and being Saturday night I thought I would treat us with one of our favourite treats... JALAPENO POPPERS!!!
Jalapeno Poppers have become a regular feature in our house.  Both hubby and I love jalapenos and experimenting with different fillings.  There are so many different varieties of these unbelievable tasty morsels - just Google you will be surprised.  I loved the idea of putting sausage and cheese together to give these some meatiness but not take away from the jalapeno itself.
These tasty yet sometimes hot nibbles are just what the doctor ordered.  Tonight we tried filling them with Italian Sausage and creamy cheese.  Very simple ingredients but an abundance of flavour.  The Italian Sausage filled with fennel, garlic and chilli made it easy as I didn't have to add anything else to the mix except for the cream cheese and some grated parmesan.
Trust me these did not last long... didn't even make it to a fancy platter!! OOPS!!

Italian Sausage and Cheese Jalapeno Poppers
(Recipe adapted from A Taste of Home)

Makes: 40
500 grams Italian sausages
cooking spray
250 grams cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
20 large jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Cook the sausage until no longer pink; drain.

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and Parmesan cheese; fold in sausage.

Line two large baking trays with baking paper. 

Spoon about 1 tablespoonful into each jalapeno half.  Place on baking tray in a single layer.

Bake, uncovered, 15-20 minutes or until filling is lightly browned and bubbly.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Prosciutto, Thyme and Brie Pizza

As you all know having fun in the kitchen is one of my greatest pleasures in life.... so it's only natural I love coming up with different pizza toppings when we decide to have homemade pizza for dinner.  Sadly my husband has to deal with my indecision every single time. 
He is bombarded with "Do you think these flavours will taste good? What about putting these two items together?" along with "I just don't know what I want this time?"... he gets so frustrated with me.  The last time it was decided to have pizza he sent me a text early in the morning telling me to start thinking what topping I wanted on my pizza!!!

Tonight I decided to try some very basic ingredients but ones that were bold on flavours.  Prosciutto and Brie both salty on their own but the smoky pork complimented the creaminess of the cheese.  Of course the thyme just laced it perfectly and with the addition of a few vegetables made this one of my favourite pizzas......

Prosciutto, Thyme and Brie Pizza

Serves: 4
One serve of Noel's Pizza Base or pizza base of your choice
cooking spray
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large tomato, sliced
1/2 brown onion, sliced
100 grams button mushrooms, sliced
50 grams thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into smaller pieces
100 grams brie, sliced
3 - 4 springs of fresh thyme, leaves removed
50 grams of fresh rocket leaves

Preheat pizza oven or oven to 220 degrees C.

Spray pizza tray with cooking spray.

Stretch pizza dough on to the pizza tray or place pita bread on the pizza tray.

Spread tomato paste all over the base.

Top with tomato, onion, mushrooms and prosciutto. Place brie evenly over pizza and sprinkle with thyme leaves.

Cook in oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and vegetables are cooked through.

Serve topped with fresh rocket.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)


Margherita with Onion and Chilli Pizza

While there is only two of us eating pizza tonight we both like to come up with our own creations and always make two pizzas.
Noel tends to try and keep his toppings basic but I have to say that they are always full of flavour and super yummy.  Adding onion, chilli and oregano to his Margherita put such a different spin on the good old cheese and tomato pizza that everyone loves.
I do have to admit one thing though - my man is getting really good at making pizza bases.

Margherita with Onion and Chilli Pizza

Serves: 4
One serve of Noel's Pizza Base or pizza base of your choice
cooking spray
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 brown onion, sliced
1/2 bunch of fresh basil, leaves removed
8 bambino Bocconcini balls
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat pizza oven or oven to 220 degrees C.

Spray pizza tray with cooking spray.

Stretch pizza dough on to the pizza tray or place pita bread on the pizza tray.

Mix tomato paste with garlic.  Spread tomato paste all over the base.

Top with  onion and basil leaves. Place Bocconcini evenly over pizza and sprinkle with chilli flakes and oregano.l

Cook in oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and is cooked through.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sticky Asian Beef Ribs

Slow cooking means a lot of different things to different people.  I guess their biggest bragging right is that this way of cooking provides busy people with easy meals to feed their family.  Sometimes you just throw anything and everything in to the vessel and pray that it tastes nice when you get home from work.  Other times the recipe is made with precision following a recipe. 
This was definitely the later - following a recipe and it's techniques.  Not the easiest of slow cooker dishes, considering it takes several days but well worth the effort.  It pays off and you will not be disappointed.
When it comes to cooking with meat I know that slow cooking will produce meat that is generally melt in your mouth or fall apart on the fork.  These Sticky Beef Ribs were exactly that.  Just lifting off the bone and considering the size of the ribs (the thickness of the meat) every mouthful was so tender and mouth watering,
Flavour wise - Asian infused with elements of sweet, salty and chilli... OMG!!!  I could have eaten plate after plate.

Sticky Asian Beef Ribs

(Recipe adapted from Not Quite Nigella)
Serves: 6 - 8

2 kilos beef short ribs
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
2 cups brown sugar, divided into two
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
3 star anise
2 large red chilli, sliced
2 cups water
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup freshly chopped coriander leaves
2 large red chilli, extra, sliced
1/2 cup chopped raw peanuts

Mix the soy sauce, 1 cup of the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, garlic, ginger, star anise and chilli in a bowl and then marinate the beef ribs in the marinade for 1 hour. Drain the ribs, reserving the marinade for cooking.

Put the ribs straight into the slow cooker vessel. Mix the marinade with the 2 cups of water and add to the ribs. Cook on low setting for 8 hours.

Once cooked allow the slow cooker vessel to cool. Place in fridge overnight.  The next day, skim the fat off the top and reheat and serve with rice if you don't want to make the glaze.

If you are making the glaze, take 500ml of the liquid to make the glaze and place in a saucepan and heat with the extra cup of brown sugar and rice wine vinegar-taste and add salt if needed. Reduce down to a syrupy glaze. Heat the ribs in about 1 cup of the liquid and then brush with the glaze.
Serve garnished with sliced chilli, coriander and chopped peanuts. 

If desired also serve with steamed rice.

Visit Not Quite Nigella for different slow cooking options.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken ( A Dash of Flavour's 600th recipe)

After the last year or so battling work loads, busy lives and being time poor I cannot believe that I have reached my 600th post.  Finally!!!  At times I have thought to myself I would have to stop blogging - the fear of not keeping up and not being able to regularly post worried me.  It's my nerdy hobby that I kept hidden even from my family but it's something that I find really enjoyable and in all honestly would love to spend more time focusing on it.  Thanks to everyone that still pops in to visit A Dash Of Flavour and a huge thank you to those that try recipes and leave me a comment.  I really appreciate every moment of support and your kind words.

So may I proudly present to you the 600th A Dash of Flavour recipe.....

There is nothing I enjoy more than experimenting with Asian cooking - except for eating it of course.  Actually who am I kidding?  I love experimenting with all foods!!

I think that the whole Asian cuisine is so diverse as it covers many countries, districts, cultures and even religions.  I believe that Caramel Chicken is of Vietnamese origin. It's actually a dish that none of us have ever eaten before - saying this we were all intrigued and excited about trying something this different.  I say this different and when it comes to dinners we often worry that some recipes will be sickly sweet.  We all adore Sweet and Sour Pork but only occasionally, all of us tend to order savoury style dishes in any cuisine.

This is a dish that covers many flavour angles - sweet (but not too sweet), sour, salty, mildly spicy and has the element of sticky!  Not to mention it is one of the easiest Asian dishes I have prepared in a long time.  My tip to ensure that Asian cooking is quick and easy is to ensure that everything is measured out before hand and that all the meat/vegetables are chopped ready to go.  As this wasn't a recipe that had millions of ingredients the preparation time was minimal also.

Served with steamed rice this basic dish was amazing - flavours totally out of this world.  Yes I have been told that I can cook this again.

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken
Serves: 6
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 kilogram chicken thigh fillets, trimmed and halved
2 red onions, sliced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 long red chilli, finely chopped (deseed to reduce heat if desired)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
fresh coriander leaves
2 tablespoons chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
1 long red chilli, sliced

Heat oil in a large wok over a medium to high heat.  Add chicken and cook in two batches.  Cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Transfer to a bowl.  Reduce heat to medium.
Add onions to the same wok.  Stir fry for 2 -3 minutes or until starting to soften. 

Then add ginger, garlic and chilli.  Stir fry for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
Return chicken and juices to the wok along with the soy sauce.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer, for about 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
Increase heat to high.  Add sugar and stir fry for about  4 to 5 minutes, or until caramelised.  Stir in the fish sauce and lime juice.  Remove from heat. 
Served garnished with coriander leaves, chopped peanuts and sliced chilli, if desired. 


Monday, May 30, 2016

Blackberry and Apple Muffins

The smell that was filling our house while these were baking was definitely a comforting one... the smell of the sweetness and cinnamon reminded me of my childhood growing up with my Gransha always baking cakes for weddings and birthdays...  I remember the big pots of mixed cake mix sitting on the table in the front room.  He made cakes for all over the Valleys in South Wales and was well known for them.  Before that he was a chef in the British Army.  As a young girl I was guilty of eating the cake mix straight from the bowl before he had baked his cakes causing many of his cakes to be incorrect sizes.  He caught on to me quite quickly and before I knew it there was a lock on the front room door meaning no access unless he was with me.  I do honestly believe I found my love of baking from the times I spent with him.

Honestly our household isn't a cake eating one - lollies and chocolates do disappear quickly however.  I love baking and thankfully the great bunch of people I work with never complain when I turn up with a box of baked treats.  In fact I am often reminded of how slack I am if they are not regularly brought into work!  It makes me laugh especially when I see their faces when I arrive at work and they see that I have been busy the night before.  So far they have enjoyed all flavours that I have brought in which means it's a win-win situation - I get to bake and they get to enjoy homemade treats.
I am really enjoying reading recipes over at Sally's Baking Addiction, a magnificent website created by Sally (obviously) who lives in Philadelphia, USA, and does her website full time!!!  Something I could only ever dream about.  There are so many great recipes and stories to read.  Pop over and visit -  your mouth will water.
This recipe, which I adapted slightly to match ingredients I had on hand, was one that I have read and re-read.  I knew it would only be a matter of time before they were made.  The combination of blackberries, apple and of course, cinnamon was delicious.  The muffin itself was super moist and laced with maple syrup.  I love cooking with berries and they add a juicy element to the muffin.  Each mouthful was definitely a flavour burst.

Blackberry and Apple Muffins
(recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction)
Makes: 12

3 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 very large apple, peeled and diced into small pieces
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1/2 cup light Greek style yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or applesauce if preferred)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup skim milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries, chopped

Oat Streusel
3 tablespoons soft brown sugar
3 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
Line a 12 muffin try with muffin pans. Set aside.

Toss the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chopped apples together in a large bowl until evenly combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar, yogurt, oil, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, and milk together vigorously until combined and smooth.
 Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently stir with a large spoon until combined. Do not over mix the batter.

To make the streusel toss the brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Half fill each muffin tin. Top with a couple of blackberries, then layer with more muffin batter and a couple more blackberries until you've filled the muffin cups all the way to the top. Sprinkle each with streusel.

Bake the muffins at 220 degrees Celsius for 5 minutes. 
Leave the muffins inside the oven and turn the temperature down to 190 degrees Celsius.  Bake for another 15-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.

Conchiglioni with Italian Sausage

One of the best things about pasta is that it's so versatile and there are many different types to choose from.  However the ultimate bonus about pasta is that it is nearly everyone's go-to comfort food.
There is always an air of excitement when the family know pasta is on the menu - pasta is always normally easy to prepare and easy to eat. 
This recipe was one of the easiest but flavour packing sauces I have made. In fact I cannot believe the pasta took nearly as long to boil as it did to make the sauce.  Minimal ingredients were used which is also a bonus.  If you do not have the Conchiglioni (large pasta shells) and pasta will be perfectly fine for this recipe.
The flavours of fennel, chilli, garlic and parsley were perfect with the pork mince - literally this was the insides of store-brought Italian sausages... yep you read right - store-brought sausages.  Some tinned tomatoes, cream and seasoning and voila - dinner is served!!
You must give this recipe a go.....

Conchiglioni with Italian Sausage
(Recipe adapted from Australian Women's Weekly)

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per serve: 14

1 kilogram Italian-style sausages
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
3 x 400g cans crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons cream
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
500g conchiglioni (large shell pasta, see Cook's Note)
1⁄3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Make a slit along the length of the sausages and remove sausage meat, discard skins.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat, coarsely crumble sausage meat into the pan and cook, stirring, until browned. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. Discard fat.

Heat oil in the same pan over low-medium heat, add garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until fragrant but not coloured. Increase heat, add tomatoes and sausage meat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until sauce is thick. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in cream and half the basil.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in plenty of rapidly boiling, well-salted water until al dente; drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add pasta to sauce mixture, stir to combine. Remove from heat, stir through parmesan. If mixture feels dry, add some of the pasta cooking water. Serve sprinkled with remaining basil leaves.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Chicken Corn and Cheese Quesadila

The kids had a really nice sleep in this morning and I must admit we did too.  Then I remembered I had to pick up my car from a friend's house as we left it there overnight (yes we were being very responsible adults after enjoying a few drinks last night).
Needless to say that breakfast was missed so I treated the kids to a very tasty brunch.  One I knew that they would enjoy as it was different to toasted cheese or baked bean sandwiches - which are a staple go to food in the Murray household.
Tortillas filled shredded chicken, corn kernels and red onion enveloped in melted cheeses laced with Mexican seasoning - who could wish for more today?  I used a mixture of cream cheese and tasty cheese which gave it a nice mixed cheese flavour and texture.  The Mexican seasoning was just a sprinkle of Homemade Taco Seasoning but you could use packet mix.
The kids enjoyed them so much that Noel and I didn't even get a look in as there were none left.....
Chicken Corn and Cheese Quesadila
Serves: 2
SmartPoints per Serve: 9
cooking spray
4 extra light tortillas
50 grams Philladelphia Extra Light Spreadable Cream Cheeses
100 grams shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, defrosted and drained
1/2 red onion, finely dice
50 grams grated light tasty cheese
1 teaspoon homemade taco seasoning or packet mix
Preheat a flat sandwich press.  Spray with cooking spray.
Spread cream cheese over two tortillas.  Equally divide chicken and sprinkle over cream cheese.  Top with both the corn and the onions.
Sprinkle each with half of the grated tasty cheese and then the taco seasoning.
Top each stack with remaining tortilla.
Transfer to sandwich press and cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until cooked through.
Cut and serve. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Herb Crusted Lamb Backstraps

I really fancied lamb (and I have been for a while now) but with football every weekend it's hard to do a roast especially mid week when we work full time. 
Then I remembered that we had some backstraps in the freezer... After mulling around with how these were going to be cooked I decided that I would make a crust and bake them.  Voila - my wish came true with a baked lamb dinner served up tonight.
This dish was a lot quicker than cooking a full roast dinner but it really was flavoursome.  I really enjoyed the crust on the juicy tender lamb.  A subtle hint of mustard with the combination of crispiness and fresh herbs in the crust made my mouth water with each mouthful.  It is actually amazing how something so basic and easy can taste so good.
These will definitely be on the menu again....

Herb Crusted Lamb Backstraps

Serves: 4
SmartPoints per serve: 10

cooking spray
4 x 250 grams lean lamb backstraps
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
100 grams fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh continental parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Spray a lined baking tray with cooking spray.

Place backstraps on baking tray and spread mustard evenly over lamb backstraps.

Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, rosemary, oregano, lemon rind, garlic and olive oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Press the breadcrumb mixture firmly onto the lamb.

Bake for 20-30 minutes for medium or until lamb is cooked to your liking.
Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Spicy Vegetarian Pizza

Since we purchased our pizza oven we have had fun experimenting with pizza dough and pizza toppings.  It's always been a laugh and most times, even though we have had some disappointments, we have enjoyed what we have cooked.
Tonight I made a vegetarian special which is my go to pizza if I am unsure on what I want (most of the time) but this time I decided to jazz it up with some spiciness of jalapeños.  I adore jalapeños and I am often caught eating them straight from the jar. 
These lovely pickled treats along with the fresh tasting vegetables was so comforting..... who needs to order a pizza when you can make fresh goodness like this in your own home?

Spicy Vegetarian Pizza

Serves: 2

cooking spray
1 serve pizza dough or a large pita bread
2 tablespoons tomato paste
100 grams baby spinach leaves
1/2 brown onion, sliced
100 grams button mushrooms, sliced
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 - 10 slices of pickled jalapeños
8 baby Bocconcini, stretched

Preheat pizza oven or oven to 220 degrees C.

Spray pizza tray with cooking spray.

Stretch pizza dough on to the pizza tray or place pita bread on the pizza tray.

Spread tomato paste all over the base.

Top with spinach, onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and jalapeños. Stretch Bocconcini and place evenly over pizza.

Cook in oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and vegetables are cooked through.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Balti Chicken Curry

We all love curries and I especially love a curry that is cooked from scratch.  Before I give you the recipe for this quite unique dish I'm going to let you in on some interesting facts about one of the world's most enjoyed foods - curry!

Birmingham is well known as the birthplace of the Balti.  The Birmingham Balti originated in the city during the late 70s, when Bengali curry chefs started to make their dishes lighter, healthier and served faster to suit Western tastes, according to the Birmingham Balti Association (BBA).

Here’s 10 things you probably didn’t know about the Balti, courtesy of Andy Munro, author of the book Going For A Balti.

1. The balti was the invention of a Pakistani restaurateur in the late 70s and the idea was to fuse Pakistani cooking with western tastes.
2. His restaurant, Adil, is still open in the Balti Triangle.

3. The original balti bowls were commissioned specially and made by a Smethwick firm

4. The oldest remaining balti bowl still in use is estimated to have been used to serve up more than 5,000 baltis - British craftsmanship at its best!
5. A genuine Birmingham balti is fast-cooked over a high flame and has to be served up in the dish in which it has been cooked.

6. A scientific study purported to prove that eating a Birmingham balti was equivalent to drinking half a pint of Guinness in its health benefits because of the iron traces from the bowl.
7. It’s got nothing to do with Baltistan and gets its name from the Urdu word balti meaning bucket.

8. However, in Pakistan, there is a tribe called the Baltis but it’s unlikely they eat the dish.

9. Birmingham’s balti has even been featured in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

10. The name of the now-famous Balti Triangle (in Birmingham) was originally invented with the strapline ‘lost in a sea of spices’ (obviously a nod towards the similarly-titled Bermuda Triangle in which ships and planes have disappeared).
So there you go..... a history lesson for us all.  This is actually classed as a British curry.
For me I enjoyed making this dish as it was quite easy and like all curries full of flavour.  There was no making of a curry paste or using store purchased paste - only a few ingredients are used to make this very tasting curry.  I actually enjoyed it better the next day mind you.  This very basic curry could easily be jazzed up by adding extra vegetables such as carrots or capsicums to bulk out the meal.

Balti Chicken Curry
Serves: 4 - 6
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 kilogram chicken thigh fillets, skin removed and chopped
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons tomato past
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons mild paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
400 gram can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock
freshly ground black pepper
freshly chopped coriander, to garnish

Heat half the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.  Add chicken, cooking in batches, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes or until chicken is browned. Remove from heat.
Heat remaining oil in same pan.  Add onions, garlic and ginger.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onions are soft.  Add paste, cumin, paprika, coriander and turmeric.  Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant.
Return chicken to the pan with tomatoes and stock.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil and then reduce heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, over a low heat for around 40 minutes or until thickened.
Serve curry with steamed rice and garnished with coriander, if desired.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Along with the Moroccan Lamb we cooked for our family Mother's Day feast we decided to make side dishes to suit.  I have actually been wanting eggplant (aubergine) for a while now so it was a perfect time to cook it.

I came across this recipe and just fell in love with the sound of it and could actually taste the flavours while I was reading.... a perfect mix of spices paired with the nuttiness of the eggplant and the sweetness of the tomatoes.
Not only was this dish devoured I have to say I was surprised with how quickly it was made and ready for eating.  The actual techniques were quite basic and easy to execute - I think it took me longer to work out how to pronounce it's name.

(recipe adapted from

Serves: 4
WW SmartPoints Per Serve: 3

1 large (700g) eggplant, cut into 1.5cm-thick slices
cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon harissa
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, finely chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
freshly ground black pepper 

Preheat grill to medium. Spray eggplant with cooking spray and grill for 16 minutes, turning halfway, until soft and golden. Cool slightly, then chop roughly.

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Stir garlic, spices and harissa in frying pan 2 minutes or until fragrant.

Add eggplant and tomatoes, and cook for 10 minutes or until thick and well combined. Stir in lemon juice. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Moroccan Roast Lamb

Mother's Day saw many of the family get together... well Noel's family as my mam lives in Queensland.  It was great to catch up with everyone again and enjoy not only each other's company but a feast (as we all love food). We decided to break away from the traditional roast dinner that we have most times and have a Moroccan taste adventure.  I was actually quite worried how this would be received as it was outside the norm for the Murray family. 
To my surprise it was enjoyed by everyone and there were lots of comments about the flavour on the lamb.  I have to say there is nothing more enjoyable than making your own marinade - knowing what is in it and especially as I picked some of these herbs from my own herb pots.  Moroccan flavours are just magical - they just make your tastebuds dance with every mouthful.  The fresh herb flavour envelope with heat from the chilli and spices mixed with the sourness of lemons combined to make perfect tastebud harmony.
My only disappointment was the actual way the lamb looked when it came out of the weber.  To be honest I think this dish would have been better cooked in the oven as the marinade may not of charred as much.  (So apologies about the finished product picture).
Moroccan Roast Lamb
(Recipe adapted from

Serves: 8
SmartPoints per Serve: 7

1/3 cup chopped fresh coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh continental parsley
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 long fresh red chilli, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
juice of 1 lemon
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 kilogram leg of lamb, trimmed
Process the fresh coriander, chopped parsley, garlic, chilli, cumin, ground coriander, paprika, lemon, salt, pepper and oil in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

Score the lamb crossways. Rub the coriander mixture over the lamb and into the cuts. Cover and place in fridge for 2 hours or overnight to marinate.

Bring to room temperature before cooking.
Light coals in Weber and when coals are ready cook lamb for 1 1/2 hours or until cooked to your liking.
Alternatively, heat oven to 220 Celsius.
Place lamb in a roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes. Drain fat.
Reduce oven to 180 Celsius. Add the water. Roast for 1 hour, adding more water if necessary, or until cooked to your liking.
Transfer the lamb to a platter, reserving the juices in the pan. Cover with foil. Set aside to rest.
Slice and serve.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins

Well I am still on my mission of catching up with blogging... At times I really wish there was 48 hours to every day because I seriously need more than 24. I cannot understand sometimes why I don't get my planned activities done daily but my husband is quick to point out that maybe I am too much of an over achiever and that I try to do to much!! He may actually be on to something... LOL!

Lately I have been baking - I have always enjoyed baking even though I am not a huge fan of sweet foods.  Thankfully I have many people who are happily willing to be taste testers for me.
Once again after reading so many different recipes, my recipe is one born from morphing many together.  The outcome was a pleasant surprise - a super easy recipe that was moist, light and full of flavour.  Raspberry and white chocolate are perfect partners in baking but with the added hint of vanilla and lemon these muffins were perfect.
They must of been somewhat ok.  Why you ask? 
Four dozen were gone by 10am the next morning!!!!!!

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins

Serves: 12
SmartPoints per serve: 12

2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
50 grams butter, melted
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
200 grams white chocolate buds (roughly chopped if using large buds)

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.

Place 12 large patty cases into a muffin pan.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, milk, vanilla and butter.

Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients along with the lemon zest, raspberries and chocolate. Using a large spoon, gently mix until just combined.

Divide the batter between patty cases and bake for 20-25 min, or until a skewer comes out clean and muffins are golden.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Mee Goreng with Chicken (Spicy Fried Noodles with Chicken)

Any noodle dish really hits the spot in the Murray household....  I am not kidding either.  There is always a serious shortage of leftovers (which we take for lunches) when noodles are on the dinner menu.  No complaints I am so glad that everyone enjoys.

We often visit a restaurant, Petling Street (I've probably talked about it before) which is located in Clayton and is definitely our favourite Malaysian restaurants.  Oliver always orders one of two noodle dishes - it's either Mee Goreng or Char Kwai Teow.   Mee Goreng are a spicy fried noodles normally with seafood and a selection of vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, mung beans, etc., and are delicious.
This is an easy version of Mee Goreng, however I did need to switch some components of the recipe due to the ingredients I had at home but believe that the flavour, which was magnificent, remained true.  This sweet, salty and spicy sauce enveloped the thick noodles (yes we didn't have the thin egg noodles either), chicken and vegetables bringing the dish together as a flavour explosion in your mouth.
Served straight from the wok this dish was definitely a winner tonight.

Mee Goreng with Chicken (Spicy Fried Noodles with Chicken)
(recipe adapted from Rasa Malaysia)

Serves: 4

2 220 gram packets hokkein noodles
2 tablespoon Sriracha chilli sauce, or more to taste
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
600 grams chicken breast, fat removed, thinly sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
3 carrots, slice on diagonal
1 brown onion, sliced
1 red capsicum, sliced
1 cup water
2 Tbsp shao hsing wine
2 spring onions, sliced
2 teaspoons fried shallots

Put noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Follow packet directions.  Drain.

In a small bowl combine chili sauce, dark soy, sugar, salt, oyster sauce and ketchup. Stir to combine, and set aside.

Heat a large wok over high heat, add the oil. Add the chicken in small batches and stir fry until browning and just cooked. Remove from pan. Repeat with remaining chicken.

To the same wok add the garlic, onion and carrots and cook for 5 minutes, tossing constantly, or until carrots are softened. Add capsicum and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Return chicken to the pan with the noodles and water. Stir-fry continuously until noodles are cooked, 3-5 minutes (depending on the heat of your wok), making sure to cook the chicken through. Add chili sauce mixture, and keep stirring until well combined. The noodles should begin to get a bit drier (no liquid left in the bottom of the wok). Add shao hsing wine and spring onions, stir to combine, and remove from heat. Garnish with fried shallots.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

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.