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Wholemeal Pasta with Baked Meatballs in Tamarind Sauce

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Minced meat is very versatile, you can use them to make bolognese sauce, lasagne, spring rolls, rissoles, burger patties and meatballs, just to name a few. I wrote this recipe in my recipe book quite awhile ago and I honestly cannot remember where I got it from. So I must admit that the original recipe is not my own and I did tweak the recipe a bit.

Another winter comfort food, cumin seeds were added to the mixture of these tasty meatballs. If you prefer to use ground ones, by all means do so but I love the taste of these seeds when I bite into them.

Wholemeal Pasta with Baked Meatballs in Tamarind Sauce

Ingredients

500 grams mince beef
1/2 medium size onion, diced
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chilli flake
Salt and white pepper to season
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
Parmesan cheese

Method

1. Preheat oven to 220°C.
2. In a large bowl combine meat, onion, egg, herbs and spices. Mix thoroughly and season with salt and white pepper. Roll mixture to about 5cm balls.
3. Place meatballs in a roasting pan greased with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes.
4. Combine diced tomatoes and tamarind paste in a frypan, add meatballs and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Cook wholemeal pasta according to instructions on the packaging.
6. Serve meatballs with pasta and Parmesan cheese.

The texture of wholemeal pasta is wonderful. Furthermore, I just need a little bit of pasta as I personally find that it is more filling than the normal white ones. If you prefer to make your own pasta, by all means go ahead, that is one thing that I have yet to attempt. May be one fine day.

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Potato and Leek Soup

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In winter we do have sunny days with clear blue skies but Canberra weather can sometimes be a bit deceiving. It has been very cold lately, too cold for my liking but it is definitely the weather for comfort food.

To keep warm this winter, I have a few recipes up my sleeve and this is one of them. This potato and leek soup is deliciously creamy and trust me, by the time you finish your first bowl, you will sigh with contentment.

Potato and Leek Soup

Ingredients

2 leeks
35 gm butter
1 medium size onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
600 grams potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
375 ml evaporated milk
Salt and white pepper

Method

1. Discard the dark green part of the leeks. Cut the leek lengthwise, finely slice the leeks and rinse thoroughly to remove any dirt.
2. Melt butter in a large saucepan and sauté onions, garlic and leek.

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3. Add chopped potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes.

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4. Pour in vegetable stock and stir to combine. Leave it to simmer uncovered until the potatoes are tender.
5. Using a blender, purée mixture until smooth.
6. Return puréed mixture to heat and add milk. Season with salt and white pepper.
7. Bring to boil and serve.

Garnish the soup with some chopped chives or spring onions, this is optional. But I like mine with freshly ground black pepper. Go ahead and make some today.

Do you have a favourite soup recipe for winter?

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Homemade Granola Crunch

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We made a trip to Canada not long ago and while I was out and about I came across a local bookstore. I don’t know if people tend to visit bookstores while on holidays but I do sometimes, especially the cook book section. I came across this book called Secrets of a Skinny Chef by Jennifer Iserloh. If you visit her website, you will find various guilt-free recipes and one of them is the Cashew Granola Crunch. Now, just for the record…I am not being paid by the Skinny Chef to say all these. Anyway, I tried the recipe and we love it. I’ve made them so many times now with a bit of change in the ingredients here and there.

Recently I made some with dates and almonds. This is not something you prepare before breakfast, well I suppose you can if you have the time and willing to wake up early in the morning but I don’t think anyone in the right frame of mind would make that sacrifice. I would normally make them a day or evening before. It takes about an hour to bake but it is worth it.

Homemade Granola Crunch
(Adapted from Jennifer Iserloh)
Makes 8 cups

Ingredients

4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flake
1/4 cup fresh dates, chopped
1/4 cup ground flax meal
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoon grape seed oil

Method

1. Preheat oven to 120°C. In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients and toss well to combine. Drizzle over the maple syrup and oil. With a wooden spoon, mix until well coated.
2. Coat two large baking sheets with some nonstick cooking spray. Spread the mixture evenly onto the baking sheets and bake for about 1 hour, stirring very 20 minutes until they are toasted and evenly browned.
3. Remove from oven to cool. Transfer the mixture into an airtight container.

I love the taste and its crunchiness. If you would like something different from your everyday breakfast cereal, why not try make some today!

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Beef Casserole with Creamy Mashed Potatoes

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One-pot meals are the easiest to prepare. You can create a delicious meal with your choice of meat, vegetables and sauce…all in one pot! It is a time-saver, you use less pots and pans, less washing and best of all, you can freeze them for another day. How can that be no good for you?

When preparing meals, I will try to cook extra portions…pack them in individual containers and tuck them nicely in the freezer. This was what I did when I made this casserole (except the mashed potatoes), I kept the extras in these cute mini casserole dishes which are very handy. One thing I like about them is that they are good for keeping small, individual portion meals, they are also freezer, oven, microwave and grill safe. Casserole freezes well and all I need to do next time I want to have them is to just leave them out on the bench to defrost, next stop in the oven and dinner is just a short time away!

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Now, I know I said one-pot but in this case 2 pots because of the mash. If you insist of just using one pot, leave out the mash…you know what I mean.

Beef Casserole with Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients
(Serves 4)

1 tablespoon Olive oil
1 kg beef chuck
1 medium size onion, diced
1 medium size carrot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
100 gm button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon hot english mustard
1 cup vegetable stock
salt and pepper

For Mashed Potatoes
900 gm floury potatoes, cut into chunks
1 cup of thick cream
85 gm butter
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Method

1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
2. Heat oil in a large flameproof casserole dish. Brown beef in batches and set aside.
3. In the same dish, cook onion, carrot and garlic, stirring until the onion is soft.
4. Return beef to the dish, stir in tomato paste, mustard and stock. Cover and cook in the oven until the beef is tender. If it gets a bit too dry before the beef is ready, just add a little bit of water.
5. Remove the casserole dish from the oven and stir in the sliced mushrooms while you prepare the potatoes. This way, the mushroom will not be over cooked.

Mashed Potatoes
1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with enough water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes are tender.
2. Drain the potatoes, immediately add butter, cream and mash thoroughly with a potato masher.
3. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy.
4. Serve mash with the casserole.

Everyone has their own creative way of eating mashed potatoes, if I may put it that way. What we did with ours was, topped the casserole with the mash. You can put it under the grill to brown it, etc but at the time we like it just…as…it…is.

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Blue Cheese and Avocado Dip

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First time I laid eyes on blue cheese, I must say that it wasn’t love at first sight. The blue veins and the strong smell was a bit overwhelming for me at the time. But who would have guessed that I would come to enjoy the taste of blue cheese. Lesson learnt…do not judge a book by its cover. I don’t blame some folks who just cannot stand the look, taste or smell of these blue, veined cheese (does that sound terrible?) but before you say “No”, why not give it a try. If you have not done so, taste it and then decide.

I was watching Nigella Kitchen one night and Nigella’s Roquamole recipe caught my attention. So happened I had blue cheese and avocados in my fridge. Well, why not give it a try. I must say that it’s tasty and I think if you are planning to entertain friends, be it weeknight or weekends why not add this dip onto your list. Its quick and easy, prepare it fresh just as you are ready to serve.

In her recipe, she uses 125g Roquefort or St Agur. When I made this dip, I used Castello Blue Cheese and only a 100gm. If you have an all-time favourite blue cheese, by all means use the one that you prefer. Also, I used Spanish onions instead of spring onions, fresh jalapeño and freshly squeezed lime juice.

Blue Cheese and Avocado Dip

(Adapted from Nigella’s Roquamole)

Ingredient

100gm Castello Danish Blue Cheese
60ml sour cream
2 ripe avocados
35g sliced jalapeño
2 tablespoon spanish onions, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Lime juice to taste

Method

1. Roughly combine blue cheese with the sour cream.
2. Using a fork, mash in the avocados.
3. Add sliced jalapeños and diced spanish onion into the mixture. Squeeze in lime juice, a bit at a time to the taste of your liking.
4. Spoon the dip into a bowl, dust with the paprika and serve it with chips, vegetable sticks or even meat.

I chose to serve this with oven baked sweet potatoes and chicken goujons. It was very nice!

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French Bread Rolls

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When I first saw the post from Mels Kitchen Cafe on these beautiful French Bread Rolls, I knew that I just have to try to make them. Not just influenced by how appetizing they look but the statement that Mel made in her blog saying that this is “one of the easiest, no-fail roll recipes around”. Well, I know they are just bread rolls but they are not “just” bread rolls you see. If I have found a recipe where I can bake scrumptious bread rolls at home than buying some doughy, store-bought ones, well… have a guess.

I followed the recipe but with a slight change in the ingredients. For example, I used bakers flour instead of all-purpose flour, glucose powder instead of sugar and grapeseed oil. I would remind you to read Mel’s notes about the amount of flour use in the recipe, it is an excellent tip.

French Bread Rolls
(From Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)
(Makes about a dozen)

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons glucose powder
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups bakers flour, give or take a few tablespoons

Method

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt and 2 cups of the flour. Begin mixing and continue to add the rest of the flour gradually until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft and smooth but still slightly sticky to the touch (see Mel’s tutorial on working with yeast here).

2. Using a stand mixer, knead the dough until it is very smooth and elastic (you can knead the dough by hand but it might take a bit longer). Place the dough in a large bowl that is slightly greased. Cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm spot for about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size. While waiting for the dough to rise, you might want to watch Mel’s tutorial on shaping perfect rolls.

3. Lightly punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly greased countertop. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and form the dough into round balls. Place the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet about an inch or two apart. Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap without pinning the plastic wrap under the baking sheet. This is to allow the rolls to fully rise. Let the plastic wrap gently hang over the sides of the pan to fully cover the rolls but not press them down. Let the rolls rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through.

As soon as the aroma starts to fill your kitchen, this is the moment when you just cannot wait to take the rolls out of the oven and have your first bite…though it is advisable to wait until it cools down slightly.

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It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would have been to make these rolls. Thanks to Mel, I think this could be my new found favourite. These gorgeous, golden bread rolls not just look good but taste delicious.

Do you have a favourite bread roll recipe?

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Paprika Roasted Mixed Nuts

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My first post on roasted nuts was just a simple, basic one. I remember the first time we visited a local farmers market and there was this man who roasted various types of nuts at the market with different sorts of flavour. His stall was very popular and I understood why as soon as I tasted the samples he had on hand. Caramel, honey, tamari, hot and spicy, wasabi and more. However, I cannot remember if he had any that is with paprika. My intention was to use smoked paprika but then I realised that I didn’t have any in my pantry, except just the normal paprika. Well…normal it is.

Paprika Roasted Mixed Nuts

Ingredients

500 gm Raw Mix Nuts
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 tablespoon Grapeseed Oil
Salt

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. In a large bowl, toss mix nuts, paprika, oil to combine and season with salt.
3. On a baking pan, spread the nuts evenly. Place them in the oven and stir occasionally. Roast for about 5 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
3. While it is still hot, sprinkle some salt and let it cool. Store the nuts in an airtight container.

The paprika is very mild to the taste, while the salt covering these roasted nuts gives that expected crunchiness with freshly roasted nuts. What I enjoy with this blend is that the flavour is not overpowering but enough to give that pleasant taste.

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