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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


It's Melbourne Cup Day here - the race that stops the nation so as like all other "Melbournites" we happily took the public holiday, had a few drinks with close friends and tried to cook up a feast.

We brought ourselves a rotisserie recently and have been having kebabs quite often. When we get a kebab (or souvlaki) from a takeaway I love it when Tabbouleh is available and always make sure that have it inside my wrap along with the meat and garlic sauce.

I believe that this is the key ingredient to a kebab or souvlaki - the freshness of the herbs and the light not overpowering dressing adds so much flavour to the meat wrap. I enjoy it that much I can just sit and eat it just like a normal salad.

The traditional Tabbouleh recipe calls for Burghul, which is cracked wheat but I couldn't source this locally this morning. I improvised and used Couscous. I must say unless you were a detective you really wouldn't have noticed the difference and I am starting to think that many take away food shops use couscous and not burghul.

No blogging about the meat on the rotisserie as yet - that's something that we are still working on however I have put a photo below of what we served up on today, Melbourne Cup.  Today we had a mixture of lamb and chicken.


Serves: 8

3/4 cup couscous
3 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
3/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper

Bring 1 cup of water to boil in a small saucepan. Add salt and couscous. Remove from heat and using a fork, stir couscous to ensure all the grain in covered in the water. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes.

Place  parsley, mint, tomato and onion in a bowl. Add couscous (you will need to break up the lumps), Stir to combine.

Mix oil and lemon juice together in a small jug, whisk to combine. Drizzle over tabbouleh. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Serve.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Asian Sweet and Spicy Pork Belly

Nothing can be classed as more naughtier than having a huge serve of pork belly for dinner... and I will be totally honest and tell you that we were very naughty as we cooked up a 1.5 kilogram piece of this magnificent meat.

When I say we I mean Noel, Oliver and myself.  Alex who is very fussy with eating pork was staying out for the night so that means the three of us tend to eat food that would not normally get cooked when she is home.

The best pork belly has tender juicy moist meat while being served with crispy crackle.  It must be cooked long and slow then cranked up right at the end to get this correct.

Tonight we had an Asian infused sauce and plain steamed rice with the pork belly and it was perfect.

Asian Pork Belly

Serves: 6

cooking spray
 1 orange, sliced into 6 slices
1 red onion, sliced
6 star anise
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon crushed ginger
1/2 cup Char Sui Sauce
1/2 cup Spicy Plum Sauce
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1.5 kilogram Pork Belly with rind scored
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius.

Spray a large baking tray or casserole dish with cooking spray.

Layer oranges in a rectangle in the middle of the tray.  Top with onions and star anise.

In a jug add garlic, ginger, Char Sui sauce, Plum Sauce, chicken stock, wine, sesame oil and soy sauce.  Mix well to combine.  Gently pour into the baking tray, do not move the oranges.

Place the pork belly on a chopping board rind side down.  Season generously with salt and pepper. Turn over.  Rub the pork belly rind with paper towel or a clean tea towel ensuring that it is dry all over.  Sprinkle with salt and using your hand rub salt into the scores in the rind.

Place pork on top of the oranges and onions, centering in the baking tray.  Cover with two layers of foil. 

Cook in oven for 2.5 hours.  Remove from oven, remove foil and check level of the sauce.  Add water if it has evaporated too much if necessary.  Check pork to ensure that it is tender and cooked through.

Increase oven to 220 degrees Celsius.  Return pork to the oven and cook for a further 20 - 30 minutes or until crackle is popping and browned.  (You can place under the grill if need be).

Remove from oven, cut into desired pieces and place on a serving tray - keep warm.

Mix together 1 tablespoon of cornflour with 2 tablespoons of water in a small jug.

Drain the juice through a sieve into a small saucepan, disregard solids.  Heat over medium heat until starting to boil. Stir through combined cornflour, continuously stirring, until sauce has thickened.  Remove from heat.

Serve pork belly with the sauce and steamed rice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Glazed Meatloaf

Comfort food doesn't come any better than dishing up slices of meatloaf into a soft white bun with cheese and salad.... and that's what we did tonight.  Everyone here loves quick, fork free dining and this is just perfect.

A glazed meatloaf, somewhat retro is character, is definitely a favourite in our house. Using a combination of beef and pork this meatloaf was moist and as usual I managed to pack it full which was jam packed with vegetables and it was bursting with flavour. I love using fresh herbs as they add so much flavour, dried herbs can be used though and will still give you the flavour.

This meatloaf is perfect hot or cold, served with vegetables or salad and a nice relish or packed up for a picnic..... so versatile but more importantly very yummy!!!

Glazed Meatloaf
(Recipe adapted from A Feast for the Eyes)

Serves: 4
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 large eggs
1/2cup milk
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce or chilli sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh marjoram
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
freshly ground pepper
500 grams lean minced beef
500 grams lean minced pork
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 zucchini, grated
2 carrots, grated

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Stir together ketchup, sugar, and vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, and hot sauce together. Add marjoram, thyme, salt, and pepper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the meats, egg-milk mixture, bread crumbs, parsley, onion, zucchini and carrot.  Mix until well combined (use your hands LOL).

Transfer meat mixture to an oiled loaf pan, place on an oven tray and bake in oven for 15 minutes or until meatloaf feels firm to touch.  Remove from oven.

Line another baking tray with foil and cover with baking paper.  Place this baking tray upside down on top of meatloaf and invert to remove meatloaf from loaf pan.

Brush meat with ketchup glaze. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes, until glaze has set.  Continue to brush meat loaf with remaining glaze every 10 minutes for a further 30 minutes or until meatloaf is cooked through.  Remove from oven and let stand for 5 - 10 minutes prior to slicing.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Creamy Chicken with Tarragon

Chicken in a creamy herb sauce..... mmmmmm and the best bit it is Tarragon. One of my favourite herbs. Tarragon has an intense flavour that's a unique mix of sweet aniseed and a mild vanilla. The French cuisine mastered the use of this herb in Béarnaise sauce, and it compliments many egg, cheese and poultry dishes.

This was a very easy dinner to put together. No over the top preparations which suited me to a tee tonight... didn't want anything too hard or time consuming - to be honest I just wanted to eat. The chicken was coated in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. And the sauce was quickly whipped together and voila then we were done. On the plate very quickly and I must say this dish kept everyone dining very happy.

Absolutely delicious - juicy tender chicken smothered in a creamy sauce. This combination can only mean one thing.... COMFORT FOOD!!

Creamy Chicken with Tarragon
(Recipe adapted from Women's Weekly)

Serves: 4

1/4 cup plain flour
freshly ground pepper
8 chicken thigh fillets or chicken chops, skin removed and fat trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup (60ml) thickened cream

Season the flour with salt and pepper.

Toss the chicken in the flour, shake away excess flour.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat, add the chicken, smooth side down, and cook until browned underneath.

Turn the chicken, sprinkle the chicken with the tarragon, cover the pan and cook until just cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan.

Add wine and stock to the pan; boil, stirring, until reduced by half. Add cream and stir until hot.

Serve the chicken covered with the sauce.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cafe Style Blueberry Muffins

Café style muffins... who can resist them? It's hard too at the best of times but when they are straight out of the oven sitting on the kitchen bench top it's even harder.

This recipe is super easy and very quick.  You don't even need to use a mixer - a good ol' wooden spoon will be just fine.

Fresh blueberries are obviously the key ingredient in these muffins - frozen can be used.  Buttermilk can be substituted with milk however the buttermilk helps maintain a moister texture.  The wonderful aroma of baking laced with blueberries and cinnamon filled the kitchen not long after they were placed into the oven.

Muffins taste best fresh the same day. Store muffins at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Muffins freeze well for up to 3 months.

Cafe Style Blueberry Muffins
(recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction)

Makes: 12

3 cup plain flour (very careful not to overmeasure)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, room temperature preferred
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil (or vegetable or melted coconut oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
coarse sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius or 200 degrees Celsius fan forced.

Spray your muffin tin of choice with non-stick spray or line with muffin liners. Set aside.

In a large bowl, gently toss together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Mix until all dry ingredients are combined - a 20 second toss to disperse everything together. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until combined. Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla. Mixture will be pale and yellow. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix everything together by hand. Avoid over mixing. Gently mix until all the flour is off the bottom of the bowl and no big pockets of flour remain. The batter will be VERY thick and somewhat lumpy. Fold in the blueberries.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling all the way to the top. Top with a sprinkle course sugar, if preferred.

Bake at 220 degrees Celsius or 200 degrees Celsius fan forced for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 190 degrees Celsius or 170 degrees Celsius fan forced and continue to bake for 25 minutes until tops are lightly golden and centres appear set. Use a skewer to see if the centres are cooked. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in muffin pan before enjoying.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Massaman Curry Paste

WOW the aromas of all the spices were amazing while making this Massaman Curry Paste from scratch!!  To be honest making any base whether it's a curry paste or a marinade has so much more flavour than a jar or packet and it's much more rewarding.  And surprisingly most of the time pastes and marinades are really easy to make.

This recipe makes approximately 1 cup of paste which unless you were cooking for a small army you would not use in one cook-up!!  It can be store in a small jar or container in the fridge for up to 3 months so you will have it on hand for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.
Massaman Curry Paste
(Recipe Sourced from Women's Weekly New Curries Cookbook)

Makes: 1 cup

20 dried long red chillies
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground clove
5 cloves garlic, quartered
1 brown onion (200g), chopped coarsely
2 x 10cm sticks fresh lemon grass (40g), sliced thinly
3 fresh kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly
4 cm piece fresh ginger (20g), chopped coarsely
2 tsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp peanut oil

Place chillies in small heatproof jug, cover with boiling water; stand 15 minutes, drain.

Meanwhile, dry-fry coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom and clove in small frying pan, stirring until fragrant.

Place chillies and spices in small shallow baking dish with remaining ingredients. Roast, uncovered, 15 minutes.

Blend or process roasted mixture, or crush using mortar and pestle, until smooth.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Crispy Cream-Braised Potatoes and Fennel

This was definitely another experimental recipe not just with cooking with a new ingredient but also experimenting with the tastes of my family... thankfully my family are open to new foods and flavours and are definitely not fussy eaters.

I must say I enjoy fennel - I enjoy the liquorice/aniseed flavour and the way it actually compliments a lot of foods - something I actually didn't think that it would do.  Having two fennel bulbs in the fridge which I had actually brought for another recipe that just didn't happen I needed to find a recipe to use up these interesting shaped vegetables.  I found this recipe on Food 52 a site that I am quite enjoying at the moment.  We had this as a side dish with crumbed pork cutlets.
Very similar to a potato bake, I thought it was rather decadent with the fennel wedges and the garnish of herbs, orange zest and cheese.  Something very different but enjoyable.

Crispy Cream-Braised Potatoes and Fennel
(Recipe adapted from Food 52)

Serves: 4

3 potatoes,  peeled and cut into irregular 3 - 4 cm chunks
2 fennel bulbs,  trimmed (with tough or bruised outer layers removed), then cut lengthwise into wedges about 3 - 4cm wide (leaving core intact)
1 cup fat reduced cream
2 to 3 cups of skim milk, or enough to cover the vegetables
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 large springs of thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped
1 large leafy sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino romano (or parmesan reggiano)
zest from 1 small orange, finely grated
olive oil

In a 3 to 4 quart pan, combine potatoes, fennel wedges, bay leaf, and fennel seed. Add enough cream and enough milk to fully cover the potatoes and fennel. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Over medium-high heat, bring the milk mixture to a simmer, then lower heat to just maintain the simmer. Cook until the potatoes and fennel are soft and tender, about 20 minutes. Take off the heat. The potatoes and fennel should be fully cooked at this point.

While potatoes and fennel are braising, preheat broiler to medium-high. In a small bowl, combine rosemary, thyme, pecorino, and orange zest.

Remove potatoes and fennel wedges from the half-and-half with a spider or slotted spoon, and transfer them to a gratin or casserole dish. Some of the half-and-half will cling to the vegetables, which is a good thing. Make sure to generously coat the bottom with olive oil to prevent sticking. Taste the potatoes and fennel for seasoning – if you need more salt or pepper, add them now. Toss with olive oil (about 1 tablespoon), then the herb-cheese-orange zest mixture. Arrange the potatoes and fennel wedges in a single layer to promote even browning.

Place the casserole dish under the broiler (about 6 inches away from the source of heat). Broil for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the potatoes and fennel are caramelized and crispy around the edges. (I typically brown the vegetables more than the ones in the picture above...just leave them under the broiler until they've reached your desired crispness!)

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Char Grilled Corn, Spinach and Bacon Salad

Although we try to eat salad all year round - I guess I mean it's a huge effort to try and eat salad during the winter months, like most people we tend to eat a lot of salads during summer and the warmer weather.  

Green salad or a general tossed salad gets boring after the second or third time in a row so we are always on the look out for a new and exciting salad.  This one was perfect and went well with the Chicken Spit that we had for dinner.

Char grilled corn was the hero - I love the flavour and aroma that the corn gives when it's barbecued. These little yellow juicy morsels tossed through baby spinach, red onion and crisp bacon were delicious dressed with a balsamic mixture.

Such an inviting and yummy change.... a good start to summer eating.

Char Grilled Corn, Spinach and Bacon Salad
(Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers The Ultimate Family Cookbook)

Serves: 8 as a salad
Serves: 4 as a main

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon seeded mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoons chopped parsley
4 cobs of corn, husks removed
cooking spray
125 grams bacon, fat trimmed
120 grams baby spinach leaves
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

Place vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, honey and parsley in a small jug or bowl.  Whisk all the ingredients together until well combined.  Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a barbecue or a chargrill pan to a medium to high heat.  

Lightly coat the corn cobs with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper.  Grill the corn for 7 - 10 minutes or until corn is just slightly charred.  Let cool and then slice off the kernels into a large bowl.

Spray a small frying pan with cooking spray and heat over high heat.  Add bacon and cook, stirring, for 3 - 5 minutes or until crisp.  Place on paper towel to drain and cool slightly.  Add to the corn in the bowl.

Add the spinach and onion to the corn mix in the bowl.  Drizzle over the dressing and toss gently,

Serve immediately.

If serving as a main, serve with 4 x 60 gram pieces of char grilled Turkish bread.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Easy Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken, I would have to say, is the family's favourite curry. We have been known to all order Butter Chicken at Indian restaurants just to ensure that there is enough. No other curries, just the Butter Chicken!! Strange us lot really are. The richness of the thick creamy tomato sauce enveloping tender chicken pieces - what is there not to love?

Mam's versions!!! This is attempt number I don't know but every now and then I have an urge to make Butter Chicken for the family. Some times it has turned out ok, some times just edible and other times a failure with what can only be describe as "killing the perfect meal".

Tonight was different - I managed a recipe that was not only easy but was also it was actually very authentic tasting in flavour.  Gentle tingle of spices in a creamy tomato based sauce was just like the restaurants serve.  A little less butter than the traditional recipes and I used low fat yoghurt and low fat cream but overall I was, and believe that the family were, happy to eat this version.

Easy Butter Chicken
(recipe adapted from Taste.com.au)

Serves: 6 - 8

1 cup plain low fat Greek-style yoghurt
4 garlic cloves, crushed
5cm piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 - 1 teaspoon chilli powder, depending on taste
1 - 2 teaspoons red food dye
1 kilogram chicken thigh fillets, trimmed, cut into 3cm pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
80g butter
2 brown onion, halved, thickly sliced
700g bottle passata
440g can diced tomatoes
1 cup low fat thickened cream
steamed rice
coriander leaves

Place yoghurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, garam masala, chilli powder and red food dye in a glass or ceramic dish. Add chicken. Stir to coat. Cover. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Heat oil and butter in a heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until softened. Add chicken mixture to pan. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until chicken just starts to change colour. Add tomato passata and tomatoes. Cover. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until chicken is tender and mixture has thickened slightly.

Stir in cream. Simmer for a further 5 minutes or until heated through.

Serve with steamed rice and coriander leaves.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sesame and Soy Stir Fried Vegetable Noodles

Vegetables can be boring let's face it. 

Add noodles - instant change and makes eating lots of vegetables in one sitting easy.  We always have noodles on hand and these shelf life noodles are perfect for a whipping up a quick meal.  Using fresh noodles would be fantastic but not as practical as these pantry dwellers.

These noodles laced with the aromatic sesame oil and soy sauce were perfect accompanying Noel's Char Siu Beef Kebabs.   The kebabs were full of flavours and these simple noodles complimented them perfectly.  All the different vegetables release their own flavours so there was no need to make this dish overpowering by using different sauces etc.

Sesame and Soy Stir Fried Vegetable Noodles

Serves: 4

1 x 220 gram pouch Hokkien Noodles
1 x 220 gram pouch Singapore Noodles
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 onion, sliced
3 carrots, cut into batons
1 red capsicum, sliced
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
200 grams button mushrooms, sliced
100 grams snow peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling hot water.  Allow to stand for 5 minutes, loosening noodles occasionally.  Drain.

Place oil in a wok or large frying pan and heat over high heat.  Add garlic, onion and carrots and cook, tossing constantly, for 5 minutes or until slightly softened.  Add capsicum, broccoli and mushrooms to the wok.  Continue to cook, still tossing, for another 5 minutes or until broccoli is tender.

Add noodles, snow peas, sesame oil and soy sauce.  Toss until well combined.  Cook until noodles are hot and snow peas are just tender.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Char Siu Beef and Vegetable Kebabs

It was definitely BBQ weather tonight so we had our first official House of Murray Summer 2015/2016.

On the menu was Char Siu Beef and Vegetable Kebabs and I decided to team these with a nice healthy serve of Sesame and Soy Stir Fried Vegetable Noodles.

Kebabs can be so much fun. To be honest anything you can eat fork free is fun, right? When I say kebabs can be fun I mean that it just starts as a plain bamboo skewer and you can put anything on it, marinate it, pop them on the BBQ  and voila you have an instant meal on a stick!!
Noel was in charge of the marinating of these bad boy kebabs and they were, as always, delish.  The marinade itself was Asian inspired hence why I felt the need to serve with some noodles.  A Char Siu Sauce base with undertones of garlic, ginger and chilli made the beef and vegetables dance on my tastebuds with every mouthful.

Char Siu Beef and Vegetable Kebabs

Serves: 4

8 bamboo skewers
1/2 cup Char Siu Sauce
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sambal oelek
800 grams beef, cut into 2 cm cubes
1 red capsicum, cut into 2 cm pieces
1 green capsicum, cut into 2 cm pieces
1 onion, cut into 2 cm pieces

Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.  Remove skewers from water.

In a medium jug mix together the Char Siu Sauce, wine, garlic, ginger, and sambal oelek.

Starting with a piece of capsicum, thread one piece onto a skewer, then a piece of onion, followed by the beef.  Repeat process 3 times or until skewer is full.  Continue with all 8 skewers.

Place in a shallow baking dish.  Pour over marinade, turning to ensure that the skewers are coated.  Allow to marinade for 2 - 3 hours or overnight if time permits.

Heat a BBQ plate or grill plate and cook skewers, turning occasionally, for 5 - 10 minutes or until beef is cooked to your liking.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Boiled Pineapple Fruit Cake

Not many of you may know this quirky fact about me, in fact there are many things I have not disclosed LOL!!!  This fact however was very pivotal my teenage years.  I grew up living on a golf course... yep a golf course.  My parents were caretakers by night, which meant we lived on the golf course and looked after the property outside of business hours.

The golf course itself was an 18 hole public golf course complete with a historic homestead, our house, a golf shop and a cafe.  My mam worked in the cafe which was perfect as she walked out the back gate and into her workplace.

One of the cakes that was baked at Sandringham Golf Course's cafe was a  Pineapple Boiled Fruit Cake and it was always a star in the cake cabinet. No fancy icing or decorations just fruit cake, moist, sweet and delicious and well enjoyed by many a golfer.

I decided to make recreate this cake... I did actually have the original recipe once but it has been misplaced somewhere in my travels so here is my take on what I can remember.

Boiled Pineapple Fruit Cake

Serves: 12 - 16

150 grams butter, coarsely cubed
1 cup brown sugar
440 grams can crushed pineapple
500 grams mixed dried fruit
100 grams candied cherries, chopped
2 tablespoons brandy
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup flour
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius or 150 degrees Celsius fan forced.

Grease a 20 cm round cake tin and line the base with nonstick baking paper.

Place butter, sugar, pineapple and juice in a saucepan, then stir until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Stir in dried fruit and brandy and simmer gently for 3 minutes. Remove to a bowl to completely cool.

Stir in the eggs.

Then stir in the flours, baking soda and spices, sifted together.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface.

Bake for 1½ hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool cake in the tin before turning out.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)