Bacon, Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Veggie soup

When it’s cold and rainy, like it is here at the moment, soup is the perfect antidote for the weather. And the last thing you want to do when it’s raining is brave the outdoors, so I’ve come up with a delicious soup that’s hearty and full of goodness, with ingredients you should already have in your pantry. Score. You might see that this one has lentils, but don’t let their hippie connotations dissuade you. It’s time to embrace this luscious lentil, trust me! When they’re mixed with salty, delightful bacon and oodles of veggie goodness they come into their own and make this soup a real winner. I prefer to use dried lentils just because I think they taste a little nicer, but if you are short on time feel free to use tinned lentils, just add them in about 10 minutes before the soup is ready or they will overcook. If you like your soup smooth, feel free to puree it but it like it a bit chunkier like me, just leave it as is. You can make a big batch of this to see you through the week and I promise you’ll be glad you did :)

Bacon, Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
  • 100g cubed diced pancetta
  • 2 red onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced lengthways and chopped
  • 3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
  • 3 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • a few sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed
  • 200 g dried red lentils
  • 1 organic vegetable stock cube, optional
  • 410 g tinned cannellini beans, drained
  • extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Place a large saucepan (with a lid) on a medium heat. Add a large splash of olive oil and the bacon and pancetta. Fry slowly until the meats have started to release they tasty fat and start to go a little crispy. Then add the dried oregano, chilli, bay leaf, celery seed, onion, carrot, leek, celery and garlic.
  2. Cook gently with the lid on for about 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft, then add the lentils and 1 litre water or vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until the lentils are soft. (Check the packet instructions as different types of lentils vary in cooking time. If you’re mixing your lentils, cook for the longest amount of time to make sure they are all cooked properly).Add the tin of cannellini beans and, if the soup’s a little thick, some more water. Bring back to the boil and simmer for another 10 minutes, then taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.Ladle into bowls and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the chopped parsley. Serve with some warm, crunchy bread rolls.

Acai Bowls

Acai bowl

Acai bowls are all the rage at the moment. I for one didn’t really get it the hype around them. I mean I love smoothies, but why do you need to make a smoothie that can only be eaten out of a bowl? After making a few myself though, I realized that eating them this way is what makes them special. It makes you really focus on the flavours when you’re having it a spoonful at a time, rather than slurping it up through a straw. Plus, the toppings add so much texture and extra flavour that you just can’t get from a normal smoothie. And so, the skeptic was converted.

Not only do they taste delicious, they are ridiculously aesthetically pleasing thanks to meticulously arranged fruit and seeds on top. I think that is the main attraction of making these bowls to be honest. You can add whatever toppings you like; honey, bee pollen, goji berries – whatever you think is Instagram-worthy really. Plus, they are full of acai, which is a modern day superfood hailing from Brazil. In Brazil, you can buy them fresh in their berry form, but here in Oz we have to use the powder, which is just as delicious. They are a rich source of antioxidants and fibre and help keep you fuller for longer, which is exactly what you want from your breakfast. Deee-licious!

Acai Bowls

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons acai powder
  • 2 bananas, chopped roughly (use frozen banana slices if you have time)
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 ½ teaspoons nut butter (I used peanut)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • 1 cup almond milk

For topping:

  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Chia seeds
  • Granola
  • Coconut flakes

Place the acai powder, bananas, raspberries, nut butter and honey in a high-powered blender. Blend until creamy, then gradually add the almond milk until you get a smooth but thick consistency. You want it to be a bit thicker than a smoothie. Pour into bowls and arrange with toppings. Serve immediately.

Vegetarian Corn, Brown Rice and Chia Tacos with Avocado Salsa and Sauerkraut

vege tacos4

I was down the coast a few weeks ago and my friend Carmen whipped up these super yummy tacos. She used quinoa instead of brown rice, and they were so delicious, but I had brown rice in the cupboard at home, hence the change. Making vegetarian dishes seem just as appetising in their own right can sometimes be a challenge, but I definitely think these tacos do the trick. I didn’t even think about the lack of meat when I ate them. The addition of egg, which is used to bind the rice and corn, adds a creaminess and really balances out the filling. Once they’re topped with the salsa and sauerkraut it gives you the zingy, freshness that tacos need and makes these a real crowd pleaser. Bonus: they’re super easy and can be made in about 30 minutes!

vege tacos2

Vegetarian Corn, Brown Rice and Chia Tacos with Avocado Salsa and Sauerkraut

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1 small brown onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • Kernels from 1 cob corn
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 avocado, roughly chopped
  • 1 handful coriander leaves
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons green sauerkraut
  • 4 soft corn tacos
  • Salt and pepper to season

Method:

  1. In a medium sized frypan, melt the coconut oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and corn and cook until the onion and garlic are softened. Next, add the rice, chia seeds and chilli flakes and cook until the rice is warmed through. Then add the eggs until they have evenly coated all the other ingredients (about a minute). Remove from heat.
  2. To make the salsa, put the avocado and lime juice in a bowl and mix together, seasoning with salt and pepper.
  3. Warm the corn tacos and place the egg and rice mix on first, followed by the avocado salsa, finishing with the sauerkraut.

Beetroot Hummus

beetroot hummus

Why change a traditional recipe that works so well and that tastes so delicious? You might be asking yourself that as you read the title of this recipe and I would understand. As a hummus lover myself, I just feel that the more hummus there is in the world, the happier a place it will be. I love hummus spiced with harissa, or with roasted garlic, but this variation with beetroot is so so delicious! The beautiful, vibrant pink colour provides instant happiness. It tastes heavenly with the subtle sweetness from the beetroot. It’s the perfect thing to keep in the fridge as a healthy snack, it goes nicely with celery sticks and crackers but is also amazing on toast with some avocado and sprinkled with chilli flakes. Enjoy :)

Beetroot Hummus 2

Beetroot Hummus

Makes about 2 cups

  • 450g can beetroot, chopped roughly and drained
  • 400g canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 ½ garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (adjust according to your preference)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to season

Method:
Place the beetroot, chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and cumin in the bowl of a food processor and whiz to a coarse paste. With the motor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube until mixture is thick and smooth. Season well and serve. Store covered in the fridge.

Lemon Meringue Bars

lemon meringue bars

The hint of some sunshine again after bouts of moody, rainy weather gave me the inspiration for this summery, citrusy dessert. Everyone loves lemon meringue pie; it’s got the perfect mix of sour, tangy lemon and sweet meringue. So, I thought why not turn it into a bar and make this decadent treat a bit more fun! I have decided to go for an Italian meringue here because I love the cloudy, air-like billowiness of it, and of course the fact that it leaves you with the opportunity to use the blow-torch to finish it off. Of course, you don’t have to torch the meringue, it will still taste delicious, I just love the thrill of it. Being the glutton that I am I sliced these bars up into 12 portions, but that is not to say you couldn’t slice them into smaller pieces to feed more people. They are very rich and a few mouthfuls would be enough for most, but again, I am not most. Hope you enjoy :)

lemon meringue bars2

Lemon Meringue Bars

Base and filling adapted from Donna Hay

Makes 12 bars

base

  • 1 cup (220g) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 cup (80g) desiccated coconut
  • 2 cups (300g) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 200g unsalted butter, melted

lemon filling

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks, extra
  • 2 cups (440g) caster (superfine) sugar
  • ⅓ cup (50g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 1 cup (250ml) lemon juice (about 3 medium lemons)

Italian meringue

  • 175 gm caster sugar
  • 2 eggwhites
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 60ml water

 

Method: 

Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Place the sugar, coconut, flour and butter in a bowl and stir until combined and mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. You can also do this by popping everything in a food processor and pulsing it a few times.

Using the back of a spoon, press the mixture into the base of a lightly greased 20 x 30cm slice tin lined with non-stick baking paper. It’s important to press the base right into the edges and corners of the tin so the lemon filling can’t escape down any gaps.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool completely.

To make the lemon filling, place the eggs and extra egg yolks in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the sugar, flour, lemon rind and lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Carefully pour the filling over the cooked base and bake for 30 minutes or until just set. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

Meanwhile, for Italian meringue, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir until sugar dissolves and brush down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar particles. Increase heat to high and cook until syrup reaches 121C on a sugar thermometer (6-9 minutes). Meanwhile, when syrup reaches 110C, start whisking eggwhites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually pour hot syrup over eggwhites in a thin stream, whisking continuously until cooled, thick and glossy (10-12 minutes).

Remove cooled lemon slice from tin and cut into 12 pieces. Transfer meringue to a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe swirls on top of each piece. Brown with a blowtorch (optional) and serve.

Banana and Walnut Bread

Banana Bread2

I feel like banana bread is half the reasons bananas exist. It makes you feel like it’s healthy enough to eat for breakfast because of all that fruit, when we all know deep down it’s more of a dessert but hey, points for trying right? It gives you the perfect reason to use those sad, possibly overripe bananas and turn them into a moist, delicious loaf (made even more delicious when slathered with lashings of butter). Plus, it’s so easy to make that you can get it all together and in the oven within 15 minutes and just sit back and relax while the beautiful banana aromas waft through the house.

This recipe isn’t overly sweet – so if you want to add another ½ cup of sugar be my guest. Also, the addition of walnuts isn’t obligatory, I just added them because I like the texture and crunch it gives the bread but you can replace them with chocolate chips or just omit them entirely. Enjoy :)

Banana Bread3

Banana Bread

Makes 8 to 10 slices

Ingredients:

  • 250g (2 cups) plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 eggs
  • Seeds from ½ vanilla pod
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, banana, spices and vanilla.
  3. Sift dry ingredients and add to wet mixture along with walnuts, being careful not to over mix (over mixing results in a tough cake).
  4. Pour the batter into a non-stick, or lightly greased and floured, 19 x 11cm loaf tin and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the bread is cooked when tested with a skewer.
  5. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve in thick slices with butter.

Quinoa Minestrone

Minestrone Soup

Soup is the ultimate winter warmer. I love to make a big pot of this comfort food. While I love a smooth, silky, pureed soup, there’s something satisfying about the chunkiness of minestrone where you get to experience different textures. This soup has all the flavours synonymous of your typical minestrone, but instead of adding unnecessary carbs in the form of pasta, I’ve replaced it with quinoa which fills you up but not out :) You can freeze this in portions if you’re not ready to use it all at once and just defrost after a long day at the office. Trust me, you’ll be thankful you planned ahead when gobble this up!

Quinoa Minestrone

Serves 6

Ingredients :

  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
  • 2 zucchini, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
  • 350g butternut pumpkin, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 50g English spinach, leaves only and sliced
  • ¾ cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • 250ml water
  • 400g diced canned tomato
  • 1tbs tomato paste
  • Chervil, to garnish
  • Chilli flakes, to garnish

Method:

  1. Fill a medium sized pot with water and place over a high heat and bring to the boil. While waiting for the water to come to the boil, prepare an ice bath. Core the tomatoes and using a pairing knife make a small ‘X’ slit on the base of the tomato. Place the tomatoes in the water for about 30 seconds or until you can see the tomato skin slit all the way up the tomato, then put straight into a water bath. Leave to cool for 5 minutes then peel the skins off the tomato and dice the flesh. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté until softened and translucent. Add the stock, water, canned tomatoes, bay leaves and thyme and bring to a simmer. Reduce the temperature to medium, add the quinoa, carrots, zucchini, parsnip, pumpkin and tomato and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked. Remove from the heat and stir through the spinach. Divide into bowls and sprinkle with chilli flakes and chervil to serve.