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.

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

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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!

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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.

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.

The Best Mac and Cheese

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Mac and Cheese is my ultimate comfort food. Like, ULTIMATE. My nana first made this for me when I was little and she would always add bacon to her dish, hence why I have to have it in mine. I have made countless variations of this dish but this version here is seriously the best. It is everything you always hoped mac and cheese would be. It has a creamy, cheesy macaroni filling thanks to not one, not two, but three types of cheese. It’s scattered with little crunchy salty hits of bacon. You also get the subtle hint of the truffle oil, and then you have the topping, with even more bacon, more cheese and the super crunchy and delicious panko crumbs. This is a hangover cure in food form. It’s also the best dish to make when you’re feeling a bit sloth-like, you want to stay in your pyjamas all day and you are definitely not expecting visitors, because while this creamy delight can seemingly serve 4 people it can also serve one person straight from this dish. Let’s be honest, when this is the sort of food you’re craving you don’t care who’s judging you.

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The Best Mac and Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 300g rindless bacon, roughly diced
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs

Cheesy Béchamel Sauce:

  • 3 tsp truffle oil
  • 2 heaped tbs plain flour
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • ½ cup gruyere cheese
  • ½ cups vintage cheddar
  • ¾ cup good quality parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to season

Method

Preheat oven grill to 200C.

Bring a medium sized pot of water to the boil. Once boiled, add the macaroni and cook about a minute less than the packet instructions suggest as it will cook further in the oven later.

Heat a medium sized fry pan with the olive oil, and then add the bacon. Cook the bacon until cooked through and well coloured. Set aside.

For the béchamel sauce, place the butter and flour in a medium sized pot over a medium-high heat and cook for about 2 minutes, so that the flour cooks out (this is called a roux). Add a little bit of the milk and using a whisk, beat it quickly and well so that there are no lumps, then add the rest of the milk still beating quickly. Keep stirring the mixture until it starts to thicken, this can take up to ten minutes. Once the mixture has boiled, coats the back of a spoon and is thick, add the gruyere, cheddar, ½ cup of the parmesan, truffle oil and season well, then take off heat.

Add the cooked macaroni and half the bacon to the béchamel mixture and mix through. Check again to see if it needs more seasoning. Pour the mixture into a 1.5 litre baking dish, then sprinkle over the remaining bacon and parmesan and then top with the panko crumbs. Place under the grill for about 5-7 minutes or until the panko crumbs are nice and golden. Serve straight away.

Chicken Meatballs with Tomato and Capsicum Salsa

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My boyfriend, who doesn’t generally cook that much, decided to make dinner for us the other night. I was pretty happy about this given it’s such a rare occurrence. But when he said he was making lamb kofta my happiness waned a little. While I love Lebanese food, kofta is not up on there on the list of things I generally order. I love the cabbage rolls, tabbouleh, sautéed eggplant, and beans with tomato…not the kofta, which I find to be a bit dry or just oily. BUT, I was not going to pass up a free home cooked dinner. I decided to make a salad to go with it and tried let him do his thing without giving him any ‘help’. I have a tendency be a little controlling in the kitchen. Shock horror. And what do you know, we sat down to dinner and bit into the kofta and it was delicious. It was super moist and super tasty and not like the ones you find in most Lebanese restaurants. It was exploding with flavour and I had to bite my tongue a little because he’d succeeded in making me think differently about a dish I would have never attempted at home.

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Anyway, it got me thinking about other ways to make kofta and how I could play around with them a bit. I’m always struggling to think of yummy lunchbox friendly recipes I can take to class. So, I decided to put a healthy twist on the Lebanese kofta and make chicken mince variation and sneak in a few veggies as well! The new version was just as yummy, especially when I paired it with a fresh tomato salsa. I also had mine with some tzatziki, which you can make yourself or just use the store-bought kind. And of course – the main tick, they are super easy to transport with you. So, if you want a healthy desk lunch to liven up a dismal office day, or something to nibble on in between uni lectures, then these are perfect. Have a go and let me know what you think 🙂 Have a great weekend everyone! Izzy.

Chicken Meatballs with Tomato and Capsicum Salsa

Serves 4

Chicken Meatballs:

500g chicken mince

1 spanish onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon za’atar

½ teaspoon ground chilli

1 handful coriander leaves, diced

1 cup kale leaves, diced

½ red capsicum, diced

1 egg, lightly whisked

½ cup breadcrumbs (I used panko, but normal are just fine)

Salt and pepper to season

Flour for dusting

2 tbs olive oil

Tomato and Capsicum Salsa:

250g red and yellow cherry tomatoes

½ red capsicum, diced

Large handful coriander, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

½ tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt and pepper to season

Method: 

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and, then using a dessert spoon scoop out some mix and roll it into a ball. Combine with the remaining mix, it should make about 16 balls. Dust each of the balls in flour and shake off the excess.

Heat about one tablespoon of the oil in a medium sized non-stick pan over a medium heat. Divide half the meatballs around the pan and cook for about 8 minutes or until cooked through, using tongs to turn throughout. Place the cooked meatballs on a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Heat the reaming oil and repeat the process with the remaining meatballs. Serve with the tomato capsicum salsa. Also works well with some tzatziki.

For the salsa: combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss together.

Prawn, Coconut, Finger Lime and Vermicelli Salad

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I spotted finger limes in the grocer the other day and I knew I had to make something with them. I tried them recently for the first time and they are the most amazing little citrus delights. They’re a native Australian fruit with a hard shell and once you open it up it reveals these gorgeous little shiny balls, often referred to as lime caviar. Once you bite into the balls they burst into a tangy, limey explosion. You probably won’t find them at your local supermarket but they are getting more and more popular. I found them at my local Norton St Grocer but I’m sure if you asked your local grocer they might have them or would be able to source them for you.

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I decided to pair them with a Thai inspired salad with lots of fresh zingy flavours. The flavour base for the dressing comes from grinding down the ginger, garlic and chilli into a paste, which gives the dressing a really good flavour hit. Don’t worry though, I’ve added some coconut milk as well, which tones it down it bit and makes sure the raw ginger and garlic aren’t too much. The addition of the lime juice, vermicelli and fresh herbs really brings the salad to life and while your eating, and bursting through one of the finger limes it really is a taste sensation. And how can you forget the sweet, succulent prawns! This is a perfect summer lunch or light dinner and you can whip it up in under 30 minutes. Enjoy!

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Prawn, Coconut, Finger Lime and Vermicelli Salad

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 kg cooked prawns, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1cm piece ginger, roughly chopped
  • ½ long green chilli
  • 1 small red Birdseye chilli
  • 2tbs lime juice
  • 2tbs fish sauce
  • 1tbs soy sauce
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 2 ½ tbs grated palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 cucumbers, halved lengthways and chopped
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips, you can use a vegetable spiraliser
  • Seeds of two finger limes
  • 200g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 1 cup coriander leaves

METHOD

  1. Place the garlic, ginger, and both chillies in a mortar and pestle and grind the ingredients down into a paste. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar and mix until the sugar dissolves. Add the cucumber to the sauce mix and let it marinate for about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water and then cover the bowl for 5 minutes. Drain the noodles into a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the cucumber sauce mix and coconut milk with the noodles, carrots, finger limes and herbs. Divide the noodle salad into bowls, top with the prawns and garnish with some more mint coriander and chilli and serve.