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.

Persimmon, Pomegranate and Farro Salad

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This salad came about because I was recently at Kitchen by Mike’s in Rosebery and I tried something similar. Regretfully, I didn’t take a photo on the day, so this salad is my recreation of what I can remember. Persimmon are the main feature in this salad and they are so delicious. I don’t eat them often, nor are they featured in menu items often but they should be. They have a delicate, sweet flavour which pairs beautifully with the tang of the pomegranate. The crunch from the nutty farro and walnuts rounds out the salad nicely. For people who are skeptical of eating salad as a main dish, make this for them. It’s packed with flavour, fills you up and there’s not a lettuce leaf in sight. Enjoy 🙂

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Persimmon, Pomegranate and Farro Salad

Serves 4 as a main or 6-8 as a side

 Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups farro, cooked according to packet instructions
  • 1 persimmon, finely sliced (mandolin is perfect)
  • Seeds of ½ pomegranate, juice reserved
  • 6 sprigs mint, leaves torn
  • 1 ½ tbs chopped chervil
  • 1 ¼ cups walnuts
  • 1 tbs maple syrup, plus 2 teaspoons
  • Zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • Sea salt to season

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Scatter walnuts on tray and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup. Bake in the oven for about 4 minutes or until just golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. To make the dressing, use the reserved juice from the pomegranates and mix it in a small bowl with the olive oil, remaining maple syrup, lemon juice and zest and season with salt.
  3. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl with the walnuts and pour over the dressing. Taste for seasoning and serve.

*To get the seeds out of a pomegranate, cut the pomegranate in half. Over a bowl, hold the pomegranate in your hand with the cut side facing your palm and using the back of a spoon bang it against the pomegranate. The seeds will fall out and with it some juice. Your hand should act as a barrier so that the white pith doesn’t go in the bowl.

Spiced Chocolate Granola

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I try and whip up a batch of granola every week or two. It’s ridiculously easy to make and it ends up being a lot healthier and a lot cheaper to do it yourself. The store bought varieties are often laden with sugar and can cost $15 for one packet! There are countless combinations and variations to try for granola. This recipe is my go-to standby because I love the chocolatey hit of the cacao and the extra sweetness you get from the spices, which also provide a delicious aroma throughout the house while its baking. Feel free to play around with spices, different nuts and seeds though – whatever mix is your favourite really. You can also sweeten with honey or maple syrup if you can’t find rice malt syrup, I just like the flavour of the rice malt because it’s a bit milder than honey. Once you’ve baked the granola and cooled it, it should last about two weeks in a sealed jar, which makes deciding what to eat for breakfast super easy! Try this and let me know how you go 🙂 Do you have any other granola combinations you love? Izzy

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Spiced Chocolate Granola

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped natural almonds
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup chopped cashews
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 tbs goji berries
  • 1 tbs pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbs sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbs cacao nibs
  • ¾ cup natural oats
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 2 tbs rice malt syrup

Method:

Preheat oven to 200C. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine, making sure that the coconut oil and rice malt syrup evenly coat all the dry ingredients. Place the mix onto two trays lined with baking paper and spread evenly over the trays. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool, this will allow all the ingredients to crisp up and form clusters. Store in a sealed jar for up to two weeks. Serve with fresh berries, milk or yoghurt.

*N.B. To make this gluten free, omit the oats and add some extra nuts and seeds 🙂

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.

Simple Carrot Cake

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Carrot cake is a perennial favourite. It’s super moist, full of nutty goodness and topped with cream cheese icing…the world’s best type of icing! And the fact that it’s full of carrots makes you feel like you’re being vaguely healthy, right? My grandma used to make this when we my sister and I were little, and although her baking repertoire was not broad (she only really ever baked me this and banana cake) her carrot cake was always a winner. I think this is one of those desserts where everyone has their own recipe that’s been passed down. I remember a while back, a male widower wrote into a newspaper asking if anyone had a good recipe for a carrot cake as his late wife would bake him one as long as he grated the carrots. The response to the article was so overwhelming that the paper decided to have a bake-off to select the best recipe. I remember thinking that it was a such a sweet idea, but it also made me realise that EVERYONE has their own carrot cake variation, so hopefully you will enjoy my version of this classic which does not include sultanas, for those who (like me) can’t stand them 🙂 Izzy

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Simple Carrot Cake

Serves 8

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 2 cups finely grated carrot
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 ¾ cups self raising flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 ½ tbs walnut oil
  • 6 tbs vegetable oil
  • 6 tbs sunflower oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

Icing:

  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 125g mascarpone
  • 60g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method: Preheat oven to 180C. Mix together flour, sugar and spices. Make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs and oils. Stir together until just combined and then add in the carrots and walnuts, stirring again until just combined. Pour the batter into a greased 18cm spring form tin and bake for about an hour. It might take a little less or a little more, so be sure to check it using a skewer to see if it comes out clean.

For the icing: beat all the ingredients in a food processor until combined. Ice cake with icing once cake is fully cooled.

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.