Roasted chorizo and vegetables with couscous

If I had to name my top 3 grains, couscous would definitely be right up there. For not only does it taste good, it is really quick and easy to prepare (aka. the two winning factors in my dinner-making book).

I generally reach for the couscous when I have something spicy or herb-filled on the menu. For it seems to lend itself to Mediterranean-style meals, adding some ‘filler’ without adding too much flavour to what is already a bold-flavoured meal.

So when I had a big batch of vegetables and spicy chorizo roasting in the oven a  while ago, it was little surprise that I made a bowl of couscous to serve alongside. Flavoured simply with a squeeze of lemon juice and some fresh herbs.

A dinner bowl packed with flavour – with the couscous being the star accompaniment for sure!

Print Recipe
Roasted chorizo and vegetables with couscous
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Line a roasting dish with baking paper, and spread over the chopped onion, capsicum, pumpkin and chorizo.
  2. Combine the oil, honey, harissa and cumin, and pour over the vegetables and chorizo. Bake for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the chickpeas and zucchini to the baking tray, and continue to roast for a further 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place couscous in a bowl with 1.5 cups of boiling water. Cover and allow to stand for 5 minutes, or until cooked. Fluff the grains with a fork, and then stir through the lemon juice and herbs.
  5. Serve the couscous with the roasted chorizo and vegetables, along with some mixed lettuce leaves.
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Raspberry and Pistachio Brownies

I’m all for a little indulgence, albeit in moderation. And what could be more indulgent that a chocolate / nut / berry combination – in the form of a homemade brownie. Inspired by a recipe I came across in My Darling Lemon Thyme’s cookbook (ps how gorgeous are her photos!), these luscious brownies made an appearance after dinner a little while ago.

Filled to the absolute brim with dark chocolate, pistachios and raspberries, they were far from “healthy”, but ticked all the boxes when it came to satisfying my sweet tooth. The raspberries added a nice touch of tartness too, meaning the end result was not sickly sweet, while the pistachios gave the slices a little texture.

On this occasion, we served the brownies warm for dessert, with a little vanilla bean ice-cream on the side. The remaining brownies kept well in the fridge for the next few days, becoming more fudge-like (with no complaints there either!).

So, if you are looking to satisfy a craving for sweets, may I suggest you make a batch of these! Be warned, though, they were hard to stop at just one piece…

Print Recipe
Raspberry and Pistachio Brownies
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 22 x 30cm slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Combine the oil, 200g of the chopped chocolate, sugars and salt in a small saucepan. Melt, stirring often, over a low heat. Add the vanilla, remove from the heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture, one at a time, ensuring they incorporate well. Add the almond meal, and sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Stir to combine.
  4. Add half of the raspberries and pistachios, and 25g of the chopped chocolate, and stir until just combined. Spread into the prepared slice tray, and sprinkle with the remaining chocolate, raspberries and pistachios.
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until just set. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then slice.
Recipe Notes

These brownies will keep at room temperature in an air-tight container for 2 to 3 days. You can also keep them in the fridge for a week or so, where they will become more fudge-like.

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Potato and Camembert Pasties

Meat pies.

An iconic Aussie treat, that I have just never been into.

Perhaps it stems from my lack of interest in gravy, or perhaps the lack of good meat (generally) in the pie itself

Instead, you’ll find me ordering a sausage roll when we stop at the Bakery for lunch. Or, even better, a vegetable-packed pasty.

Recently, with a view to not letting my freezer hoard of puff pastry get out of hand again, I decided to make some pasties at home. My version ended up quite different to the usual variety though (and I suspect far more indulgent). For the flaky pastry was filled with creamy potato, mustard and camembert cheese.

I made large versions on this occasion, but think they would also work well as smaller ‘finger food’ for a party or special event.

You can keep your meat pies. I’ll take these pasties any day!

 

Print Recipe
Potato and Camembert Pasties
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place potatoes, cream, mustards and garlic in a small saucepan. Simmer over a medium heat for 20 or 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Season and set aside to cool slightly. Stir through the camembert and spring onions.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Cut a 20cm circle from each of the pastry sheets, and top half of each of the circles with a 1/4 of the potato mixture, leaving a border.
  3. Brush egg around the edge of the pastry circles and carefully fold in half to enclose the filling. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal.
  4. Brush the tops of the pasties with a little egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
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Life, lately. October 2017.

Enjoying – Netflix. Yes our household has finally come of technological age and we have jumped on the Netflix bandwagon. We don’t watch a lot of TV – generally an episode of something after the kids have gone to bed – so Netflix is proving perfect for this purpose. So far we’ve made our way through 3 seasons of Fargo and our ‘must watch’ list is growing by the day.

Planning – A renovation of our backyard, and an overhaul of the bathroom at our unit in Melbourne. Yes life lately has involved  meeting with lots of contractors – and I’m feeling excited (and perhaps a little nervous too) about our upcoming projects. I’m particularly excited for the work we are having done in our backyard given Summer will soon be upon us!

Deciding – On lots of things related to the renovations. Style, structures, fixtures and fittings – and if I’m honest, I’m getting a tad overwhelmed by the process.

Cooking – Lots of power bowls and salads.  Generally filled to the brim with a variety of vegetables, some sort of protein and rice or quinoa.

Drinking – Mineral Water – by the bucket load. I’m currently obsessed, provided that it is the glass bottle version. Thank goodness for Costco and their bulk buy option!

Eating – Not cheese. Little Maggie appears to have developed eczema, so I’ve been told to stay away from dairy for the moment. Sounds easy right? However, given that I used to have a cheese  sandwich for lunch every other day – this has pretty much been torture. Sidenote: I tried dairy free cheese, but won’t be doing that again in a hurry…

Thinking – About where we might like to travel as a family next year. The whole family loved our trip to Fiji last year, so I’m thinking of heading to that region again when Maggie turns 1 (which conveniently is when Canberra is in the midst of Winter).  Samoa perhaps?

Loving – Watching the friendship between my two oldest girls grow and grow. Sure, they have their moments, but for the most part they seem to be great mates and will happily play for hours together. We evened moved them into a shared room last week, and so far its working quite well.

Feeling – Grateful that Maggie is a good sleeper. Neither of her sisters were all that great at sleeping in the first year, but so far Maggie is proving to be quite the superstar (hopefully I haven’t just jinxed myself though…) She generally wakes once or twice a night to feed but will resettle well, meaning that I am not feeling too sleep-deprived when the morning rolls around.

Making – our annual family photo journal and, for once, I am actually up to date. I love the whole process of reminiscing over our family adventures, and getting incredibly nostalgic while doing so.

Wishing – I could find the time to run. I’m sure the ‘time’ is there, somewhere, I just need to fit running time more firmly in my schedule. My daily walks are great, don’t get me wrong, I just really miss running too. Time to get my running mojo back!

 

Cocktail Hour: Santorini Sunrise

 In a previous life, many moons ago now, I worked almost every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night as a bartender. This basically meant that I operated on little weekend sleep for the 4 years I was at university, pulled my fair share of beers and made countless bourbon and cokes (which seemed to be the popular drink of choice amongst the younger clientele at the time).

A highlight of these years was being rostered on in the cocktail bar from time to time, as opposed to the nightclub, where I could have  fun creating cocktails.

And while these days my weekends are far more laid back (with sleep deprivation coming in the form of a newborn rather than an 8-hour bartending shift), I still do love creating cocktails when the opportunity arises.

Take this Santorini Sunrise, for instance – which we served at our recent Father’s Day lunch. It was a simple cocktail, and far from the ‘unique’ cocktails popping up on drink menus today, but it was fresh and fruity – and just the sort of cocktail I was wanting to serve.

A tasty little addition to the MCP cocktail list come Summer time!

What about you? What is you favourite cocktail?

Print Recipe
Cocktail Hour: Santorini Sunrise
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
cocktail
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
cocktail
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine vodka, peach schnapps and juices in a shaker, and shake with ice. Pour into a glass (also with ice).
  2. Drizzle grenadine down the side of the glass to create a sunrise effect. Garnish with pineapple slices.
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Vegetable and Bean Chilli

I spoke a little while ago about make ahead meals. Ones that I can prepare in advance, then reheat when dinnertime arrives. Well the other advantage of these meals is that you often have leftovers too – which can be portioned and frozen for future meals.

And so with the husband making his way back from Sydney the other day – I dove into the freezer and pulled out two portions of this vegetable and bean chilli. Reheated on the stove top, and kept warm until he walked in the door. Served with quinoa, and finished with some fresh parsley.

 This vegetarian chilli is packed with beans, spices and vegetables. In fact, it is so filled with flavour that you don’t miss the meat component at all. And while on this occasion I served the chilli with quinoa, you could easily substitute the quinoa for rice or even tortillas. The addition of fresh avocado or some  natural yoghurt or sour cream would also work beautifully if you had any on hand.

Print Recipe
Vegetable and Bean Chilli
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes.
  3. Add the spices, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring.
  4. Add the vegetables, and stir to coat with the spices.
  5. Add the tomatoes, beans and water, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Stir through the spinach, cacao powder and parsley, and heat for a few minutes, Season to taste.
  7. Divide and among serving bowls, and serve with quinoa or rice and extra parsley.
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Fig and Olive Relish

Unassuming.

The word I can’t help but return to when I am thinking of the fig and olive relish we served at our recent Father’s Day lunch.

For it is modest, unpretentious, and certainly exhibiting no ostentation in its appearance.

But, friends, being unassuming does not mean it lacks interest. In fact, if some of the most unassuming people can turn out to be the most interesting, I don’t see why a lovely little relish cannot deliver the same!

Simply – dried figs, kalamata olives, sugar, vinegar, fennel and cinnamon. Coming together to create the perfect blend of sweet and salty – and a wonderful accompaniment to the meat dishes we had on offer at lunch.

And, as we later discovered, also rather tasty when served with some crumbly cheddar and crackers.

Unassuming..yes…but also very tasty!

Print Recipe
Fig and Olive Relish
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan, with the reserved fig water, and bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce heat, and simmer gently (covered) for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Process in a food processor until smooth.
  4. Chill and serve.
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Mango and Lime Salsa

While I am 100% on board the ‘fresh is best’ wagon, sometimes ingredients may not be in season, or may be too expensive.

Such was the case when I had a craving for mango recently, and wanted to create a fruity salsa to serve alongside some spicy chicken and beans. With not a fresh mango in sight, however, I turned to tinned mango instead – which meant that we could have a summery dish even though the temperatures were still in single digits outside.

Combined with cucumber, spring onions, lime, red chilli and fresh mint – we soon had ourselves a lovely sweet and spicy salsa.  I think avocado would also be a nice addition…next time perhaps?

Although this was a relatively simple dish, it was definitely a hit, and will almost certainly be making further appearances when mangoes come back into season!

Print Recipe
Mango and Lime Salsa
Course Side dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Side dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients and season to taste.
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Sweet Chilli Chicken Soba Salad

Lately, I’ve really mixing things up when it comes to the ‘carb’ part of our meals. Brown rice and quinoa are undoubtedly the regulars, or polenta if I’ve made a stew, but when it comes to salads I often go with noodles!

On this particular occasion it was soba noodles that added some carbohydrate to our dinner. And given they only require a couple minutes cooking time, it’s no surprise that I find them handy to have in the pantry.

The salad itself was pretty easy to prepare too. I used some leftover shredded chicken – warmed up with a splash of soy sauce and a good amount of sweet chilli sauce. The salad was then built with crunchy lettuce, shredded carrot and cabbage, cucumber, snowpeas, coriander and some extra red chilli for a little heat. Basically whatever I had leftover in the fridge!

From thought to plate in under 15 minutes = winning!

What about you? Are you a fan of noodles in salad?

Father’s Day 2017

Father’s Day is becoming quite the event as our girls grow. Homemade presents are in abundance (thanks to School and Daycare), and the girls seem to be at that perfect age and have a wonderful time spoiling their Dad on his special day.

After a relaxing morning filled with presents and cuddles, our annual Father’s Day tradition continued with a family lunch. And, as is the case each year, we selected an international theme for the meal.

This year – it was all things Greek! Starring freshly picked lemons and rosemary from our garden to give the table a Mediterranean feel.

We actually opted for a late lunch (linner), as it works well with the girls’ nap times and means that they can join us for the meal. Although as is the case each year, linner soon turns into dinner, as we chat and eat our way through the afternoon and into the evening.

On the menu this year?

Spinach and feta pinwheels to start – that I made the day before and reheated just before serving. Washed down with a pre-lunch cocktail – of course – a Santorini Sunrise.

Made with vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine.

For the main course – we served chicken souvlaki skewers, keftedes, roasted lemon potatoes, a burghul salad and a green salad. With homemade tzatziki and a fig and olive relish on the side, along with some flatbread.

And for dessert? This rather impressive-looking baklava cheesecake (recipe here).

A lovely baked vanilla cheesecake, with a honey / nut crumble and enclosed in filo pastry. Served with a honey cinnamon syrup. YUM!

And so another Father’s Day celebration came to an end, with full bellies and lots of laughs.

Adding another country to our list of Father’s Day lunch destinations too!

2013 – China

2014 – Turkey

2015 – Mexico

2016 – Italy