Our latest feast

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Baked Curried Beef and Rice

Apparently I have been cooking too many curries lately.... this was a sad statement to be told.  Who in there right mind cannot have enough curry?  Further discussion led me to two decisions.  The first being my experimenting with making curry paste from scratch is not satisfying the kids and has possibly made me a little obsessive.  Or two I am not cooking enough Butter Chicken - a curry that they would all happily eat every day!!!  I think it's the later for sure but sadly I do think it's the fist reason.

Looking for a weeknight wonder, I came across this recipe which didn't involve making a curry paste but did however have the curry in the name.  Was I game to serve it up?  Hell yes.

Such an easy dish to make and really took no time at all.  Pop in the oven and voila you have a rice bake that had an Indian style flavour which not surprisingly they all loved. This curry was more a spicy tomato flavour than that of an authentic curry but due to the spices used it was very enjoyable and not that "Plain Jane"  Saying that it was quite mild curry so very kid friendly.  I added some carrots and capiscum to bulk it out and add extra vegetables.

Another perfect weeknight wonder.......

Baked Curried Beef and Rice
(Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers Australia)

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per Serve: 7

cooking spray
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
500 grams lean beef mince
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried saffron
3 teaspoons curry powder, mild
2 teaspoons ground all spice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 x 400gram can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups beef stock
2 carrots, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
2/3 cup frozen peas, boiled
150 grams Basmati rice
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

Lightly spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Cook onion, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened. 

Add mince and cook, breaking up lumps, for 5-7 minutes or until browned. 

Add garlic, saffron, curry powder and allspice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, beef stock, carrots and capsicum and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly. Stir in peas.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place rice in a medium saucepan. Cover well with cold water. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes or until rice is almost tender (you still want a little firmness). Drain.

Add rice to beef mixture. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in egg. 

Transfer mixture to prepared dish. Bake, covered with foil, for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Stand for 5 minutes before serving.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Asian Beef Salad

The weather has been ridiculous this summer and we are yet to venture into February which is traditionally the hotter of the summer months.  There have already been +40 degree Celsius days which have really knocked most Australian's around not to mention power shortages due to the overloading of the grid.  I have to admit to having our air conditioner on for several days in a row and sometimes I didn't feel I was getting relief at some stages.

Obviously this made cooking in the house a huge non-negotiable topic.  It was cooking outside either on the barbecue (keeping in mind if it is a Total Fire Ban) or in the pizza oven or it was cold foods!  Simple!

I decided that we would have an Asian style Beef Salad - tender warm beef with salad and an Asian infused dressing.  Everyone thought that sounded great and were enthused by the idea.  So I was armed with some nice pieces of rump steak already to make a marinade and then I hit a problem.  What marinade, what dressing, what flavours???  Seriously this just went from super easy to super hard.

Why hard?  Google Beef Salad Recipe and see how many options you get?  I was actually overwhelmed but I knew that I wanted to make it with Asian flavours - chilli, lime, garlic, fish sauce, etc.  So many different versions of recipes depending on the region in the World or cuisine but the more I read the more the same key ingredients kept appearing. Some recipes marinated the meat prior to cooking other's didn't, some did this and some did that!  So after about an hour of googling and two cuppas later I decided that I had read enough recipes and was just going to wing it.  

So here is my version of an Asian Beef Salad - a fusion of Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Oriental, and all the other recipes I read this morning.  Marinated tender rump chargrilled and then sliced served on a bed of mixed salad and herbs.  Of course, then drizzled with a salad dressing made from scratch (also used as the marinade).  It was devoured.......

Asian Beef Salad

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per Serve: 8

1 teaspoon sambal oelek
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper
800 grams rump steak
2 cups mixed lettuce leaves
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion, very finely sliced
1 lebanese cucumber , cut horizontally then cut into slices
1/4 cup coriander leaves , roughly chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves , roughly chopped

In a jug mix together the sambal oelek, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice and sesame oil. Season to taste with salt (don't use too much) and pepper.  Pour half into a large snap lock bag or casserole dish.  Put remainder into the fridge to use as the dressing.  

Ensure that the rump is trimmed of all fat.  Place whole pieces into the snap lock bag or casserole dish.  Ensure that the rump is coated in the marinade and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight, if possible.

When ready to cook preheat barbecue grill to high temperature.

Remove rump from marinade and place straight on the grill.  Cook for approximately 2 minutes each side for rare or cook to your liking.  Remove from grill, cover with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile place salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, coriander and mint onto a serving platter or dish.

Cut steak thinly across the grain. Place on top of salad leaves.  Drizzle with remaining dressing, if desired, and serve immediately.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sticky Chinese Chicken Tray Bake

Is it me or are the clocks ticking faster then normal already this year?  At the moment I no sooner get up, go to work, come home, cook dinner then go to bed - whammo another day gone. And I already feeling tired and it's only 18 days into the New Year.  I have so many things I need to get done and want to do around the house, with the family, with my studies but my daily/weekly "To Do List" is starting to become my "Wish To Do List - I actually do not feel I am achieving that much at all.  

Needless to say, I have been looking for quick fix dinners and weeknight wonders to at least ensure that we are all still eating well.  It's so easy to say "let's get takeaway" when in reality by the time our family decide what food we are getting, choose items of the menu, make the phone call something can literally be in a pot cooking!   I am sure you can all agree with this?

What's your favourite weeknight wonder?  We have quite a few that frequent our table for a quite dinner including Chicken Taco Bake (which is stupidly easy), Devilled Sausages, Beef Keema with Cumin and Currant Pulao, and Penne Boscaiola just to name a few.

Obviously I am always on the lookout for new quick and easy dishes that I can add to our collection and I recently came across this one which instantly appealed to my taste buds - sometimes I wish I could smell and lick my computer screen!  Don't you?  How good would that be?

I think it took me 5 minutes tops to marinate the chicken (which I did the night before) , 5 minutes to put it in a casserole dish and place in the oven.  Super easy!  Already a winner in my books. While it baked I prepped a Crunchy Asian Salad and steamed some rice - perfect partners for what was an amazing dish.

Melt in your mouth chicken pieces laced with a perfect balance of hoisin sauce, honey and Chinese five-spice was delicious.  The crunchiness of the cashew nuts complimented the chicken and there was also the right amount of sauce once cooked.  I don't like dry chicken and this wasn't.

This one-pan chicken dish makes a cheap and easy midweek family meal and we will be definitely having it again.

Sticky Chinese Chicken Tray Bake
(Recipe adapted from BBC Goodfood)

Serves: 8
SmartPoints per Serve: 7

8 chicken chops or thighs, skin removed
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons clear honey
11/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 bunch spring onions, cut into 3 cm lenghts
50 grams cashew nuts, toasted

Slash the skin 2-3 times on each thigh and place in a large snap lock bag or casserole dish.

Mix together the hoisin, sesame oil, honey, five-spice, ginger, garlic and some seasoning. Pour over the chicken and toss to coat.  Marinate the chicken for 2 hrs, or overnight if you have time.

Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Arrange the chicken thighs in a large roasting tin in a single layer.  Cook for 30 - 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, basting at least once.

Stir through the cashew nuts and sprinkle the spring onions over the chicken. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Serve with steamed rice and Crunchy Asian Salad, if desired.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Echidna Meatballs aka Porcupine Meatballs

Well I definitely surprised myself while menu planning this week!  Not because we planned a full week of super quick and easy meals to get us to Friday as we have a busy week but I was surprised, actually stunned, that I hadn't blogged this gem of a recipe!  And I cannot even begin to think why?

My mam had a variety of homestyle dishes that she cooked as staples when we were growing up as did everyone's mothers.  Ours always had a British twist as although we were living in Australia my parents were born and raised in Wales.  So we had Shepherds Pie, Bangers and Mash with Onion Gray, Lamb Stew, Curry Pie, Toad in the Hole and of course, Eggs Beans and Chips.  These were the meals that were regularly on the table and we all enjoyed them.  I can tell you that there were never any leftovers when these went on our table.  In fact I still get a little excited if I know any of these dishes are what we are having for dinner.

However, my kids, have had to deal with me creating my own list of family favourite dinners.  As easy go to meals especially during the working week items that can be found on the menu planner can include Hamburgers, Taco's, Penne Boscaiola, Devilled Sausages, homemade pizza (your choice of topping), Chicken Parmagiana, Echidna Meatballs and of course, Eggs Beans and Chips.

I understand many of you may have or not had any of the dishes I have just mentioned so just for the record Toad in the Hole does not contain any toads, Porcupine Meatballs do not contain any porcupine meat and Echidna Meatballs definitely do not contain any Echidna meat.  Are we clear?  I am happy now that we have that sorted!

Firstly this recipe is based on Porcupine Meatballs, an American dish that has apparently been a staple for generations.  As we live in Australia I changed the name to Echidna meatballs based on the fact that we don't have Porcupines down under.  The Echidna, or Spiny Anteater, is the equivalent to it's Northern Hemisphere counterpart.

So what is an Echidna meatball?  Basically its a beef meatball with raw white rice added during the mixing stage.  Once the meatballs start cooking the rice starts protruding from the meat.  This resembles a Echidna or a Porcupine.  It's quite a groovy cooking technique and look pretty cool, especially if you are a kid.

Echidna meatballs are a very comforting and easy dish to make. The tender meatballs flavoured with herbs are cooked in a delicious tomato sauce.  There is no need to brown up the meatballs prior as they keep their shape well.  Note there is not a lot of stirring required during cooking so please do not be tempted to continually stir as you will ruin the effectiveness of the rice poking from the meatball.

Like with most hand me down recipes, googles or cookbook searches you will find a multitude of different versions all claiming to the best.  This recipe is nice, tasty and very easy but is it the best?  We think so but I am unsure.  Many use canned tomato soup but we find that using a can of condensed soup seems to make the sauce very sweet.  We prefer to add some diced fresh tomatoes along with canned and passata.  Add some chilli flakes if you wish to spice up the tomato sauce or even some different herbs.  Its a great recipe to experiment with also.

This is a perfect one pot weeknight wonder, even more so for me tonight as the man of the house, Noel, cooked dinner.  It was wonderful to come home from work and smell the deliciousness as I opened the front door.

Serve with mashed potato or plain pasta and I am sure your family will love them.

Echidna Meatballs aka Porcupine Meatballs

Serves: 4
SmartPoints per Serve: 7

500 grams lean beef mince
1/3 cup raw long grain rice
1 teaspoon beef stock powder
ground black pepper
1 egg white 
4 fresh truss tomatoes, diced
350 ml Italian passata
1 x 440g can diced tomatoes
1 onion, finely diced
1 cup water
2 teaspoons chicken stock powder 
2 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chilli flakes (optional)

In a mixing bowl add mince, rice, stock powder and egg white. Season with salt and pepper.  Using your hand, mix all ingredients together until combined.  Shape into twelve even sized meatballs.

Place the tomatoes, passata, canned tomatoes, onion, water, chicken stock powder, garlic, oregano and chilli, if using, in a flameproof casserole dish or heavy based frying pan (with a lid). Mix well and bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Gently place meatballs in tomato sauce.

Put lid on casserole dish and gently simmer for 1 hour, stirring occassionally, until meatballs are cooked and rice is protruding.

Serve with mashed potatoes or pasta (add SP as required).

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Bacon, Sausage, Jalapeno and Sriracha Pizza

Another fakeaway evening!!  Not really the fact of the matter is hubby and I pretty much are cooking for ourselves at the moment so it's our choice and doesn't have to be family friendly as such.  The kids are home, sort of, one is doing evening shifts at the local supermarket and has something quick after work.  The other, is caring for his partner who just had 4 teeth (2 molars and 2 wisdom) removed and cannot eat a great deal at the moment that requires chewing.  My gorgeous boy has gone out in sympathy with her and is eating soup and mashed potatoes (soft foods) with her.

Needless to say our choice tonight was pizza... Noel cooked his usual Margherita, which as usual was yummy and vibrant in flavour. I, of course, had to try something completely different and it was.

Firstly lets start with the dough.  Now over the years, we have experimented with many different pizza dough recipes.  Some good but too technical.  Others complete failures.  A lot of the time we use pita bread as the base as it's quick and easy and actually quite good for you if watching your weight.  But if you want a good pizza shop pizza base you need to make your own dough.  At the moment we are using a recipe we watched Poh make on her show Poh's Kitchen  which was aired on the ABC here in Australia.  It's very easy and tastes great.  That's really all that matters when it comes to the base.  You can try this or use what ever base you like.

Now for the pizza toppings.  As we all know pizza shops are pretty traditional with their menus.  Some have a gourmet range but other than the one or two specials most shops offer the same toppings.  I like to think outside the square and have spent many hours googling and scouring other blogs for different ideas.  I must say that I have read some pretty interesting gourmet ideas and some that just did nothing for my tastebuds!

I had some fresh jalapenos so I wanted to use them so I searched jalapeno pizza and it was incredible - all these new ideas.  But so many different versions on this pizza, Bacon, Sausage, Jalapeno and Sriracha Pizza.  So as always I just went with the idea and made up my own.  

Many of the recipes I read called for salami or summer sausage but I decided to use fresh Italian sausages.  I squeezed them out of the casing and made them into bite size pieces.  These tasty mouthful of fennel, garlic and chilli gave the pizza a really nice element and it was nice to bite into.

Fresh jalapeno has a different taste and texture from the pickled jalapenos you purchase in a jar.  Obviously they are fresh to start with but it's the texture, crunch and the unknown heat with are enjoyable - all without the vinegar taste.

It's no secret that we love to eat spicy food and somehow we seem to bring it into every cuisine where possible.  Sriracha Sauce is always on hand at our place.  It's hot and fantastic.  The combination of the jalapeno and Sriracha Sauce gave this pizza a definite kick - tastebuds tingling with every mouthful.  This along with the smokiness of the bacon, everyone loves bacon, the crisp onions, the cheekiness of the sausage and the gooey cheese made for a fantastic gourmet pizza!

The perfect fakeaway for sure!  We ate off the pizza tray and used napkins - very posh indeed!!

Bacon, Sausage, Jalapeno and Sriracha Pizza

Serves: 4 (2 slices per serve)
SmartPoints per serve: 12

1 serve pizza dough
cooking spray
1/4 cup tomato paste
50 grams  grated light tasty cheese
1 raw Italian sausage
4 slices shortcut bacon, cooked, chopped
1 brown onion, sliced
1 fresh jalapeno, sliced
5 button  mushrooms, sliced
2 bocconcini balls
2 teaspoon sriracha, or more or less depending on taste

Make dough according to the recipe you are following.

Preheat pizza oven to correct heat or a kitchen oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Spray a pizza tray with cooking spray.  With wet hands stretch the dough over the pizza tray.

Take the end off each sausage to open casing.  Squeeze the filling out and break up into bitesize pieces.

Spread tomato paste evenly over dough.

Top with grated cheese, sausage, pork, bacon, onions, jalapenos and mushrooms.

Individually stretch the bocconcini balls and scatter on top of pizza.

Drizzle with sriracha sauce.

Place pizza in oven and Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy at the edges, and the cheese is bubbly and brown.

Serve immediately.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Thai Green Curry Paste ~ Kæng k̄heīywh̄wān thịy

We don't cook a great deal of Thai curries at home purely as the kids are not fans of this style of Asian cooking - too much coriander and chillies from memory.  But I am sure as their taste buds develop even further they will come to enjoy it.  Needless to say hubby and I really enjoy a good thai curry.  My favourite is actually a Beef Massaman Curry, which I have made before but didn't make my own curry paste - maybe that's the next one on my list to make?

Working through this list of wonderful fresh ingredients there may be some items you are familiar with or you may not. If you are lucky to have a good green grocer or well stocked supermarket you shouldn't have problems getting these ingredients.  Don't panic however as you can substitute some if you do not have access to them in your area.  Some come in paste form in jars or tubes available in supermarkets.

The Lemongrass stalk is too tough to eat on its own so has to be finely crushed or chopped.  This herb has a refreshing lemon-lime taste with a tinge of mint and ginger. It is a key ingredient in Asian cuisine, particularly Thai, used in curries, stir fries and noodles. It pairs beautifully with fish, chicken and coriander. 

Galangal comes in two different varieties.  One being Greater Galangal and the other is Lesser Galangal.  Confused yet?  They both have different tastes. Lesser Galangal has a stronger taste, described as a mix between ginger and pepper. Greater Galangal’s flavour is pungent with a lemon-like sour taste which is described as a mix between ginger and cardamom. In general Galangal’s flavour is spicy, but not as hot as ginger.  Saying this if you cannot find Galangal you can substitute it for ginger.

Thai Basil is a type of basil native to Southeast Asia. Its flavor, described as anise and licorice like and slightly spicy.  Thai basil has small, narrow leaves, purple stems, and pink-purple flowers. Once again if unavailable in your area you can use common basil.
Kaffir lime leaves and to a lesser extent, fruit rind, is an essential ingredient in Thai, Indonesian, Indian and Malaysian cuisines.   The rind is covered in small bumps and ridges which identifies them compared to the common lime variety  . Kaffir limes are generally smaller than other limes and what juice they yield is quite acidic, bitter, and strongly sour.  The rind of the fruit is slightly bitter.  The leaves have a lingering yet delicate citrus flavour. I find that the leaves are easy to find in most supermarkets and Asian grocers.  Common lime can be substituted for Kaffir Lime if juice and zest are required however common lime isn't as pungent.

Chillies come in many shapes, sizes and flavours.  They can be sweet, fruity, earthy, smoky and at times ass-burning HOT.  All chilli peppers change colour as they grow - generally green, yellow and then red.  When red they are considered to be at their sweetest.  When you remove the seeds and inner membrane of the fruit, much of the heat is taken out.  I used long green Cayenne Chilli for this recipe and I kept all the seeds in.

French Shallots are milder, sweeter flavour than the normal brown onion and are generally a lot smaller (about the size of a pickled onion).   Do not confused this with Spring Onions which are often also called Shallots.

I would presume, and I hope that I am correct, that everyone is familiar with Coriander??  Well Coriander, like most herbs, grows in soil and therefore has roots.  The roots are very flavoursome and are also used quite a lot in Asian cooking.  When you use the roots in a recipe please ensure you give them a really good rinse and the roots can contain dirt and you don't want this in your meal. 

The smell coming from just actually making the paste was amazing.  During the process of making it into a smooth paste I was imagining how good this was going to taste.  My eyes were watering a little due to the intensity of the chillies and shallots vapours in the air but it all added to the experience.

This recipe makes approximately 2 cups.  It is suitable to keep in the fridge for a week in a sealed jar or can be frozen.  I freeze most of the curry pastes we make in cooking portion sizes, in this case I will freeze it in 3 tablespoons lots.

It's actually amazing that all these wonderful ingredients can be put together and form such an intense yet tasty paste to form the base of a wonderful curry.

Thai Green Curry Paste ~  Kæng k̄heīywh̄wān thịy

Makes: 2 cups
Makes: 16 x 30 gram portions
SmartPoints per serve: 1

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 sticks of lemongrass, sliced into rings
2 inch piece of galangal or ginger, peeled and sliced, or  2 tablespoons crushed ginger
20 Thai basil leaves or basil leaves
1 bunch coriander - leaves, stems and roots
zest and juice of 1 kaffir lime or lime
10 kaffir lime leaves, vein removed and sliced
15 long green chillies, thickly sliced
8 garlic cloves or 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
6 french shallots, peeled
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt

In a dry frying pan on medium/low heat, toast the coriander, cumin and peppercorns until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Once cool, using a mortar and pestle or a mini food processor, add the coriander mix and pound/pulse until ground.

Add remaining ingredients in the mini food processor and pulse until a smooth paste forms.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Stir Fried Garlic Chilli and Basil Chicken with Rice Noodles

Late in 2017 we, as a family, were faced with a challenge!  Our son's partner was diagnosed with having Coeliac disease therefore meaning we would have to change the way we cook a variety of foods to accommodate this.  It has never been thought of by any of us as a problem or an issue.  As unexciting as having a disease can be we all decided that this would be easy and that with a few changes here and there we can all still enjoy food and cooking without compromising tastes etc.

So just incase you are unawares Coeliac disease is where the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats), causing small bowel damage. People with coeliac disease remain sensitive to gluten throughout their life, so in this sense they are never cured. However, a strict gluten free diet does allow the condition to be managed effectively.  A strict, lifelong gluten free diet is currently the only recognised medical treatment for Coeliac disease. By removing the cause of the disease, a gluten free diet allows the small bowel lining to heal and symptoms to resolve. As long as the gluten free diet is strictly adhered to, problems arising from Coeliac disease should not return. Relapse occurs if gluten is reintroduced into the diet. Coeliac disease affects on average approximately 1 in 70 Australians. However, around 80% of this number remain undiagnosed. This means the vast majority of Australians who have Coeliac disease don’t yet know it.

I remember years ago upon first learning of all these allergies, such as gluten, dairy, fructose, and thinking to myself "oh that poor person - they must miss out on so many things".  The fact of the matter is years ago they did miss out on so many things.  Years ago it was hard to find suitable safe things to eat so they did go without.  Today however the world is far more aware of these allergies and diseases and "special" foods are more readily available.

To be honest I am surprise how easy it is to omit gluten from some meals that we cook - others have been challenging but it's all about learning.  Learning to change, experimenting with other ingredients and ideas whilst trying not to compromise the taste.  I will put my hand up right now though and admit I do not like working with Gluten Free frozen pastry - it sucks big time and my quiche failed completely.  LOL!  I am sure that there will be more interesting adventures with foods....

Anyhow I have to say that a stir fry is always a quick option for dinner especially after a busy working day.  Thankfully rice and rice noodles are Gluten Free along with many other Asian ingredients these days. I substituted the soy sauce in the original recipe for Gluten Free soy sauce but obviously if you are not on a Gluten Free diet you could just normal soy sauce.

When it comes to cooking Asian meals at the House of Murray it's all about finding that flavour - you now the flavours that will be different, tempt the tastebuds from the first mouthful and the dish that you just want to keep eating even though you are full.  Everyone knows this desire.... mmmm.

This recipe does that.  The flavours of the garlic, chilli and fresh basil coupled with the fresh vegetables, tender chicken and the soft rice noodles was magic.  Drizzled with fresh lime juice the taste was so vibrant and the crunchiness of the beanshoots and sesame seeds just made every mouthful enjoyable.  I also did not have Thai basil at the time so substituted this with normal basil and while it wasn't as spicy as the Thai variety it was still very pungent.

Talk about a mouthful of freshness...  I am sure that you will enjoy this as much as we did.

Stir Fried Garlic, Chilli and Basil Chicken with Rice Noodles
(Recipe sourced from Weight Watchers Australia)

Serves: 4
SmartPoints per Serve: 4

500 grams lean chicken breast, fat trimmed, thinly sliced
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 whole fresh red chilli, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
1/4 cup Gluten Free soy sauce
140 grams dry rice noodles
cooking spray
2 medium red onion, sliced
1 medium Capsicum, red, raw, thinly sliced
300 grams snow peas, halved lengthways
70 grams fresh bean sprouts
1 cup fresh Thai basil or basil plus extra to serve
1 medium fresh lime, cut into cheeks
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Combine chicken, garlic, chilli and half the soy sauce in a medium bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes to marinate.

Meanwhile, cook noodles in a large saucepan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until just tender, drain. Set aside.

Heat a large wok over medium-high heat and lightly spray with oil. Stir-fry onion and capsicum for 2 minutes or until softened and lightly browned. Transfer to a plate.

Reheat wok and stir-fry chicken in 2 batches for 2-3 minutes or until cooked. Return onion, capsicum and chicken to the wok.

Add snow peas, bean sprouts, basil, noodles and remaining soy sauce. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes or until heated through and cooked.

Serve garnished with extra basil.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Chilli Hommus

An impromptu lunch invitation for a couple really close to our heart was received on Friday night when they popped into our house and once we realized that we were free we took them up on the offer.  Especially with it being a day of record heat temperatures in Melbourne and their house being equipped with good air conditioning and a spa!

All we had to bring with us was some "nibbles".  Knowing that they were going to serve up cold meats and salad for lunch I couldn't very well take an antipasto platter or anything that too was full on cold meats.  Upon discussion with my husband we decided that a couple of homemade dips would be nice and of course, different than the norm.

Next decision was which dips?  We ended up making a Hommus with Chilli, a Beetroot and Mint, a Chilli Jam and a Smokey Mustard.  All whipped up in under 30 minutes and tasted incredible.  The freshness in all of them was amazing and the fact that we knew they were based on good and healthy ingredients made them even nicer.  

Dips are a really easy dish to prepare - infact they are insanely easy.  The majority of dips have minimal ingredients not to mention you are in control of what ingredients you use and I bet most of them will not contain any of those nasty numbers that you find on preservatives, additives and colourings.  I actually also find it is cheaper to make your own dips than buying those pre-made from the shops.

We made this hommus without tahini only because I didn't have any on hand.  I have made hommus many times and always used tahini so I was a little skeptical as to what the outcome would be.  To our surprise it was really nice and actually quite unnoticeable that it was missing what I would have considered an important ingredient to this dish.  I added a little sesame oil to give the flavour a hint of the nuttiness but you don't need to do this if you do not wish. The chilli quantity can be adjusted to suit your tastebuds - add more or less to suit.

Chilli Hommus

Makes: approx 1 1/2 cups
Serves: approx 18 x 20 gram servings
SmartPoints per serve:  1

2 x 400 gram can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 to 4 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
juice of 1 lemon juice
2 teaspoons chilli flakes (add more if you prefer)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch smoked paprika, for garnish

Add the chickpeas, 2 tablespoons of water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sesame oil, lemon juice, chilli flakes garlic, cumin, and salt to a food processor.

Process until smooth and creamy.

If needed, add additional water to thin out the hummus.

Place in a serving dish, drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika.

Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Chilli Chicken with Cashews

This dish was not on the menu this week but as I (yes me I'm guilty) had forgotten to defrost steak to cook what we had planned so while at the supermarket after work I purchased some chicken fillets - you can do anything with chicken fillets.  Not to mention that most chicken recipes, besides roasts, are quick and easy.
Even though we had Chicken Tikka Masala last night which cured my curry craving my taste buds were still fancying something a little spicy and different.  But what?  From the minute I got home there were so many ideas and some suggestions including Nice Chicken, which is a classic back up meal in our household made using hoisin sauce and cayenne pepper.  I did not fancy that.  Time to phone a friend, well not really, I turned my search for something dinner over to google.  I thought I want spicy so let's try chilli chicken recipes.  Next obvious decision was cuisine - did I want Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Southern, Indo Chinese???
After reading a few recipes I went along with a combination of Chinese and Indian style of cooking, which is actually refered to as "Hakka Chinese" and commonly called 'Desi Chinese' is the adaptation of using Chinese seasonings and cooking techniques to Indian tastes. See - you can learn something everyday.  I then went on a morphed a few recipes together to come up with my version of Chilli Chicken with Cashews.

An interesting thing I discovered while ready the worldwide web of recipes was that the Asians cook two different versions of Chilli Chicken - one is dry and the other is known as "with Gravy" which means sauce.  Both versions are similar throughout the recipe with the second adding extra sauce prior to serving the dish hence making the gravy.  I'm not really sure about this recipe we cooked as it wasn't dry or wasn't smothered in sauce - the sauce quantity was perfect to be honest.

Hot chilli sauce was the main ingredient in the taste of this recipe so I knew that it should be kickass and not just an Aussie Style Chilli - please welcome Sriracha Sauce to the table..... I can hear some of you saying "Hell Yeah!" and others saying "Oh no too hot!".  To be honest it's a sauce that we really don't use a lot of, no idea as to why, just don't.  This chicken dish just got a little more exciting.

The sweetness of the tomato ketchup, the saltiness of the soy and the heat of the Sriracha - talk about a perfect combination.  Crunchy capsicums and cashews added to the texture and the chicken, well talk about cooked perfectly, tender and moist.  The chicken absorbed the flavours of the marinade and the sauce during cooking and was absolutely scrumptious.

We really enjoyed this dish and hope you do too.

  Chilli Chicken with Cashews
Serves: 4
SmartPoints: 10
500 grams chicken breasts , boneless, cut into pieces
1 egg
5 teaspoon Sriracha Sauce or hot chilli sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 teaspoon corn flour
1/2 cup oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 teaspoon white vinegar
3 tablespoon oil, extra
1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
1/2 teaspoon garlic paste
1 red onion, diced
1 small green capsicum, diced
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 long red chilli, sliced 
1/4 cup water
1 spring onion, sliced, for garnish

In a small mixing bowl, 2 teaspoons of Sriracha sauce, salt, pepper, corn flour and egg. Mix well and add chicken.  Combine well to ensure the chicken is completely coated. Set aside for 1 hour, or longer if time permits.
In a wok or frying pan, add 1/2 cup oil and heat it over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, fry the chicken pieces in small batches for about 3 minutes or until just cooked. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel lined plate.  Repeat with remaining chicken.  Remove all oil from wok or pan.  Wipe out with paper towel.  

In a separate bowl, add remaining chilli sauce (3 teaspoons), white vinegar, soy sauce and tomato ketchup. Combine them well and set aside.
In the same pan add 3 tablespoons of oil.  Heat over medium heat until the oil is hot, add ginger, garlic and onions.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the onions become translucent and become slightly brown.

Increase to high heat and add capsicums and cashews. Fry, stirring for 1 minute.

Reduce heat to medium and add the chillies and the sauce mixture.

Add chicken pieces and mix to combine.  Add the water and cook until the water is absorbed.

Garnish with spring onions and serve immediately.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Chicken Tikka Masala

Having been accused recently of overdoing it with curry on the menu I have been quite hesitant to cook a curry but it got to a point that I fancied one.  I fancied (and actually have been fancying non Christmas food since Boxing Day! OOPS!!!) something different!  A non Festive comfort food.  Our family comfort food comes in the form of many different foods - could be the flavours, the ingredients, the textures, our moods.  But everyone knows that once you fancy something you just have to have it.

My usual go to curry is either Butter Chicken or Japanese Curry but thought I should cook something new.  Didn't really wan't to get heckled about cooking curry lol!  I was given a Curry cookbook called The Curry Kitchen by my sister, Clare, for my birthday last year. After reading it - it became my favourite cookbook (well for the time being).  I have marked the pages with that many tabs with all the curries that I want to cook and I have tried quite a few - maybe that's where the curry rebellion started.. hhhmmmm?

Anyhow, the kids don't do blow away heat levels with curry.  Their taste buds range from mild to also mild to the occasional medium with one trying a hot dish every now and then.  With this in mind I thought we would have Chicken Tikka Masala served with steamed rice.

For this recipe I substituted the shop brought Tikka Masala Paste for a homemade version of Indian Masala which I made on Monday.  I made it a few days earlier to allow the flavours to develop, which they definitely did.  The paste itself was bordering on a medium heat but once cooked through with the remaining ingredients it mellowed to a very comfortable mild tempered curry.

There was only really one main difference between our version and that of the book (let's put this out there - who's dish actually does end up looking like the picture right?) is that the homemade paste was naturally coloured and not the red as it comes prepared in the shop brought pastes which are full of preservatives, additives and colourings.  However if you are not game or able to make your own paste there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a jar of paste.

The flavours were terrifically balanced - between the Tikka marinated chicken, the tomatoes and the cream.  You could definitely taste the mustard seeds, cumin and coriander on the chicken pieces and in the sauce with the faint trace of cinnamon from using the homemade paste.

This meal was a definite "fakeaway" hit in the Murray household and is also a mid week wonder as besides the marinating of the chicken the whole dish was on the table in under an hour.  Do yourself a favour though - marinate the chicken the day before so the poultry takes on the full flavour of all the Indian spices.

Chicken Tikka Masala
(Recipe adapted from The Curry Kitchen Cookbook)

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per Serve: 8

12 boneless small chicken thighs, cut into chunks
100 grams plain reduced fat yoghurt
8 tablespoons Indian Masala Paste or Tikka Masala Paste
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 cup chicken stock
400 gram can diced tinned tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 cup reduced fat thickened cream
fresh coriander, chopped, to garnish

Combine chicken, yoghurt and half the Masala Paste in a bowl.  Cover and place in the fridge for 3 - 4 hours to marinade or longer if time permits.

Heat half the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, ginger and chilli powder and stir for 5 minutes or until golden.  Add the remaining curry paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until aromatic.

Add stock, tomatoes and tomato paste.  Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 15 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.

Heat remaining oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Sear chicken and cook for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.  Add chicken to sauce and simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Add cream 5 minutes before serving and stir well to combine.  Garnish with coriander and serve with steamed Basmati rice (3sp for 1/2 cup) and small Pappadums (0sp each if cooked in the microwave).

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Pork and Veal Meatballs on Polenta with Gremolata

One of the ways that I survive is by being organised.  Many of my friends, I believe, think I have a major control issue or am just simply crazy.  Menu planning, shopping lists, list of contents of freezer, family planner, etc., has just become part of our lives as with both hubby and I working full time and the kids with school and sporting activities there was a definite need to be organised not only to be prepared but the maximize the spare time that we did have.  I guess you either love it or hate it (or maybe don't understand it)!  I love it.

So needless to say I have menu planned the first week of the New Year.  As I plan Saturday to Friday it's only a small week especially as we went out for dinner with family last night to the Westernport Hotel in Hastings.  Now I mainly only plan dinners as lunches are normally quite standard weekdays but if I do plan to do a nice lunch on the weekend, for example, this is planned also.  Once the meals are decided I also make note of where the recipe is sourced from so whoever wants to come in and start preparing dinner they know what needs doing.  From the menu plan I get the shopping list and it all flows on from there.

I decided that tonight's dish, Pork and Veal Meatballs on Polenta with Gremolata, an Italian inspired dish would move away from all the foods and flavours of the Festive Season that we have been eating.  While the sauce itself is quite rich, the meatballs were moist and tender with a hint of cheese.  I did actually use pork an beef mince for this recipe as I did not have veal as the original recipe called for.  Both minces were only regular grade not the lean mince as required which would add to the richness and the fat content.  This also made it a tad oilier.  So stick to lean mince for this recipe.

The tomato sauce was very robust and really complemented the whole dish. This combined with the smooth creamy polenta made this meal quite comforting and I can only imagine would make a wonderful meal for a cold winters night.  The kids, not being fans of polenta, had boiled pasta instead.  I think if I had cooked more there would have been seconds taken by everyone that's for sure.

Pork and Veal Meatballs on Polenta with Gremolata
(Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers Australia)

Serves: 4
SmartPoints per serve: 10
SmartPoints per serve (using regular mince): 13

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium brown onion, finely choppped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
400 gram canned diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
250 grams lean pork mince
250 grams mince veal or beef, raw
3/4 cups grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
125 grams Instant yellow polenta
1 tablespoons fresh lemon rind, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoons garlic powder

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion, celery, carrot and garlic, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine mince, 2 tablespoons cheese, half the parsley, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Roll heaped tablespoons of mixture into 12 balls.

Add meatballs to tomato mixture and cook for 15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and sauce thickens.

Meanwhile, bring 1 litre of water to the boil over high heat. Add polenta in a steady stream and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft and creamy. Stir in remaining cheese.

Combine lemon rind, remaining parsley and garlic powder in a bowl. Serve polenta topped with meatballs, sauce and gremolata.

Oven Baked Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Parsley

Christmas and New Years to our family represents seafood - whether it's shellfish, being prawns, oysters, crayfish and mussels or whole fresh fish.  This year we decided that we hadn't had a Rainbow Trout for such a long time and it was one of Grandma's favourites so we would put it on our New Year's Eve menu.  

As per usual too much food on New Years Eve or maybe it was too much Champagne and the trout actually didn't get cooked so sadly (not really) it became one of our first meals to be eaten in 2018 - such a shame!

This recipe is exactly what the name describes.  Rainbow Trout that is stuffed with Lemon and Parsley oven baked and voila it's ready.  Yep simple but so tasty!  Rainbow Trout is a fresh water fish that has an earthier taste than salt water fish.  A large percentage of Australian Rainbow Trout are farmed and readily available.  The flesh is pinkish in colour and when cooked whole with skin on it's meat tends to hold together better.

So starting with a clean and scaled fish (your fishmonger will do this for you) this recipe takes minutes to prepare.   Placing on parchment paper season fish, fill with the herbs (you can literally use any flavours you wish) wrap and bake.  We traditionally use parsley, lemon slices, salt and pepper as they are subtle and flavour the fish enough without spoiling the trout taste.

Served either hot or cold this is a really nice accompaniment to a salad or vegetables, or even just with cheese and crackers.  Today we served it with left over Bubble and Squeak and some Tuscan Pork Sausages.... 

Oven Baked Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Parsley

Serves: 4
SmartPoints Per Serve: 0

1 trout, cleaned and scaled
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 lemon, sliced

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Rinse trout inside and out.  Pat try with paper towel.

Place a large piece of foil on bench.  Cover with a large sheet of parchment or baking paper.  Position fish is the centre.  

Season cavity of fish with salt and pepper.  Place parsley and lemon slices in cavity.

Wrap fish firstly in parchment paper then seal by wrapping in the foil.

Place on a baking tray and cook in oven for 30 minutes, depending on size, or until fish feels tender to touch.

Remove from oven and allow to stand, still wrapped, for 15 minutes.  Carefully remove foil and place on serving platter with or without parchment paper.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Indian Masala Paste

I have said this many times before but nothing compares to making sauces, packet mixes and pastes from scratch.  Not only are they free from all those nasty preservatives, flavourings and colourings but there is that added sense of achievement that you actually made it yourself.

To be honest, I can go months without purchasing a shop prepared bottle, can or packet mix  - I've always been a huge fan of making my own and providing healthier ingredients for the family.  Don't think I am casting judgement as at times if I am time poor I have used them I just prefer not too.

Making homemade curry pastes are particularly rewarding.  Some are complex and some are surprisingly easy.  When you achieve that authentic flavour and use it in cooking you know you are on a winner.

This curry paste, I have to say, was quite easy although there seems to be quite a list of ingredients.  The fragrance coming from the herbs that were cooked were amazing.  In fact the family thought I was cooking the curry when I made this not just the paste.

The only difference that I have noticed making this Indian Masala Paste, and with other pastes, is that it didn't have the red colour of the store purchased jar of cooking paste or simmer sauce.  That my friend has added red food dye or additives/colours to make it look appealing.  Please remember it's not about the colour (as this paste doesn't really look the best) BUT it's about the taste.

Due to the lack of all the preservatives, additives and colours homemade pastes have a much shorter shelf life than the pre-made ones.  But that's perfectly natural.  For example this recipe will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 week or even better you can freeze it.  I tend to only make up small quantities just before I am about to cook the curry, sometimes a day or two ahead for the flavours to develop.  Cook as directed in the recipe you choose to follow and you will have a wonderful homemade curry completely from scratch.

I am using this paste as part of Chicken Tikka Masala.

Indian Masala Paste
(Recipe sourced from Taste.com.au)

Makes: 1 cup
SmartPoints per tablespoon: 0

2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (hot) chilli powder
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled, chopped
1/4 cup malt vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Place mustard seeds in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook for 1 minute or until seeds start to pop. Add peppercorns, cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric and cinnamon. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant. Allow to cool completely.

Place spice mixture in a food processor. Add chilli, garlic, ginger, vinegar and oil. Process until a smooth paste forms.

 Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Bubble and Squeak - New Year 2018

Firstly I would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope that 2018 is magnificent in every way.  I decided this year that there would be no New Years' Resolutions, no promises that I will fail to keep, no grand plans that will depress me if I do not complete them, etc, etc.  This year I just want to ensure that I make the most of every new day and to love, to learn, to grow and to discover.
Part of my new resolve is to ensure I have time for me.  Time for things I enjoy, time for me to chill, relax, refresh and enjoy me. I thought about trying a new hobby - something that would interest me and I would enjoy.  But then I thought why? I already have a hobby!  Something I enjoy doing, which challenges me and keeps me happy.  What is it?  Cooking and blogging, of course!
2018 will be a year that I have promised myself to make time to continue my love of cooking.  Experimenting with flavours, challenging myself with technique and more importing expanding my tastebuds to ensure that new foods are tried.  It's all very exciting and best of all I am going to share this culinary adventure with you.
So here we go......
The Festive Season means a lot of different things to different people.  For us it's family being together, traditions and love.  But it also means FOOD - and lots of FOOD.  Too much to eat in all honesty but it seems that we must over cater just to make sure there is enough.  Seriously there is always enough and that can only mean one thing.  Leftovers!  Left over ham, turkey, seafood, vegetables - everything.
This morning our fridge was a smorgasbord of food possibilities. Quite exciting really.  There is literally enough of so many different foods all leftover.  I also have a house full of teenagers from last nights' New Years Eve celebrations.  So I decided to first feast of the New Year would be good old fashioned Bubble and Squeak or as we prefer to call it Fry Up.  This meal is definitely on the Comfort Food listing.

Bubble and squeak is a traditional British dish made with leftover vegetables from a roast dinner. The main ingredient is potato but cabbage, carrots, peas, Brussel sprouts, or any other leftover vegetables can be added. The chopped vegetables and any left over meat are fried in a pan together with mashed potatoes or crushed roast potatoes until the mixture is well-cooked and brown on the sides. The dish is so named because the cabbage makes bubbling and squeaking sounds during the cooking process.

Sadly this isn't really a great recipe to blog as there are really no quantities to follow - it really just depends what you have in your fridge.  This morning we were lucky as I had a large bowl of mashed potatoes left over from dinner the other night along with carrots and roast pumpkin.  I did add some freshly boiled Brussel sprouts, peas and corn to give the dish more colour.  But seriously you can use anything you have on hand and theoretically they don't have to be leftover.

An absolutely perfect way to start the New Year.....

Bubble and Squeak

Serves: 8
2 teaspoons oil
1brown onion, diced
leftover ham, diced
leftover mashed potatoes
leftover vegetables (that you have available) chopped into bite size pieces
1 cup grated low fat tasty cheese
freshly ground black pepper
1 - 2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until softened.  Add ham and fry for a further 5 minutes or until ham is browned and crispy.  Remove from heat.

Put the mashed potato, vegetables, cheese, salt, pepper, thyme and bacon mixture into a large bowl.  Gently mix until all vegetables are mixed through the potatoes but are still chunky.

Using the same large frying pan add butter and melt over low heat.

Place the potato mix in the pan pressing down to compact mixture.  Cook on stove top for about 10 minutes.

Transfer to oven and cook for a further 20 - 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve immediately.