Soup's up

With winter making an encore performance, a hearty soup seemed like a good idea. Sweet potato and red lentil is a bit of a staple at our place. You can season it as much or as little as you like, and it's always filling. If you don't have any laksa seasoning, substitute with fresh, minced or dried chilli, cayenne pepper or galangal.

Sweet potato and lentil soup

1 tbspn olive oil
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 tspn cumin
1 tspn turmeric
1 tspn cracked black pepper
3 tspn laksa seasoning
1 cup red lentils
1 cup coconut milk
2 tbspn coriander, finely chopped


Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan. Add the leek, and saute until tender. Add the sweet potato and spices. Stir to coat. Add the stock and lentils. Cover and simmer until the sweet potato is soft - around 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Using a stick blender, blend until smooth. Stir through coconut milk. Serve with chopped coriander.

Tea cake

As a household, until stone fruit season arrives, we're not great at eating enough fruit. Unfortunately, I don't have any control over what gets delivered in our weekly seasonal fruit and veg box, so we often end up with a lot of stuff that nobody really wants to eat. Recently, that has meant we've had loads of pears. Since there's only so many times you can eat poached pears in a week, I decided to try adding them to a tea cake.

Pear and cardamon tea cake

3 buerre bosc pears, peeled. cored and diced
1/4 cup white sugar
150g butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tspn vanilla
2 cups SR flour
1 1/2 tspn ground cardamon


Preheat oven to 180 C. Place half the pear in the base of a greased ring pan and sprinkle with the white sugar. Cream the butter and caster sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to combine. Add the vanilla and remaining pear and mix well. Sift the flour and cardamon together. Fold in to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk. Bake for around 55 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Brain food

The first time I tried making this, it was nice, but not all that exciting. Mostly it was an experiment in reducing the amount of salmon the breadwinner eats in a single sitting. The second time, I tweaked the recipe quite a bit. We both agreed I got it right.

Most of the quantities are estimates - I don't really measure things unless I'm making sweet foods. This makes enough for four large serves, or six smaller serves with salad.

Salmon risotto

400g fresh salmon
1 tbspn lemon juice
1 tbspn butter
1 tbspn olive oil
1 leek
200g arborio rice
1 litre chicken style stock
2 cups sauvignon blanc
1 lemon
4 tbspn salted capers
2 tbspn dill


Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Place the salmon on aluminium foil. Drizzle with lemon juice and season with black pepper if desired. Wrap tightly in foil and place in the oven for around 10 minutes. Wash the leek thoroughly, then thinly slice the white section. Melt butter and oil together in a heavy based saucepan. Add the leek and saute until tender. Add the rice, and stir until coated. Meanwhile, bring the stock and wine to simmering point. Add around one third of the stock to the rice and stir well until absorbed. Continue adding small amounts of stock to the rice, stirring continuously. Add the dill and capers, stirring well. Zest the lemon, then add zest and juice to the rice. Finally add the remaining stock, stirring until absorbed. Remove from heat. Remove the salmon from the oven. Flake the salmon in to the rice mixture and stir through. The salmon will finish cooking from the heat of the risotto. Season with black pepper and serve.

Fast Food - Chinese Style

Normally I like to cook from scratch, but realistically, there are days when I just can't be bothered. On those days it's good to have a set of staples in the fridge or pantry to whip up some fast food. Vegie stir fry definitely fits the definition, and salt and pepper tofu, while not a staple, is definitely fast. All up, dinner was ready in around 20 minutes, which is faster than going out for take away, and most likely a fair bit cheaper too.

Salt and pepper tofu

1 packet tofu puffs
1/4 cup ground rice
2 tspns finely ground black pepper
2 tspns finely ground salt
spray olive oil
oil for frying


Combine the salt, pepper and ground rice in a bag. Lightly spray the tofu puffs with oil. Place in the bag and shake to coat with rice mixture. Preheat oil to smoking point. Fry coated puffs until golden - around 2 minutes. Drain. Garnish with fried shallots or fresh sliced red chilli.

Hints for super fast stir fry

  • Keep a bag of stir fry vegies in the freezer - my favourite blend includes water chestnuts, baby corn and bamboo shoots along with snow peas, broccoli, red capsicum and onion.
  • Keep bottles of minced garlic and minced ginger.
  • Make sure ground five spice is in your seasoning collection.
  • Always have a bottle of stir fry sauce of some variety on hand. Mushroom flavoured stir fry sauce is great for vegetarians, oyster sauce is good for carnivores.
  • Shelf fresh noodles are a good addition if you can't be bothered with rice.

Beans doesn't mean Heinz

Beans again, baked, not fried this time.

According to the internet - and let's face it, the internet is never wrong - baked beans originated in Boston as a result of the slave trade. I've also read somewhere that baked beans are the national bean dish in the USA. Big claims for a fairly humble dish.

After a bit of searching the intergoogle, it quickly became apparent to me that recipes for Boston baked beans are completely different to the canned baked beans we get in Australia. For starters, most of the recipes sounded like the end result would be flavoursome, rather than a salty mush in a reddish sauce. In fact, they sounded like something you would eat at home, rather than a dish prepared in a camp fire. Only problem was that just about every recipe I came across included masses of bacon or kaiserflesch. So I did a little experiment, and combined key ingredients from several recipes to make a vegetarian version.

Slow Baked Beans

250g borlotti beans, soaked
1.5 tbspn olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 capsicum, seeded and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
420g can diced tomatoes
3 cups water
2 tbspn cumin
1 tbspn smoked paprika
3/4 cup treacle


Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Heat oil in a heavy based stockpot or casserole. Saute onion and garlic until translucent. Add beans, capsicum, carrots, cumin and paprika and stir until fragrant. Add tomatoes and water - the water should cover the beans by around 4 cms; add more if necessary. Place casserole in oven, with lid on. Cook for four hours, checking hourly to make sure the mix hasn't dried out. Add more water if the beans look dry. After four hours, add treacle and stir through. The beans will immediately smell as though they are simmering in bbq sauce. Return the casserole to the oven and cook for a further two hours, uncovered, or until the mixture is thick.
Serve with toast for a comfort food lunch or filling breakfast.

Don't try this at home

In an attempt to be a good mummy, I've been eating fish to pass on omega 3s to Smidgin. Pasta with tuna, capers and white wine sounded like a quick and easy way to do it. The result was definitely quick and easy, but also incredibly bland. Dinner FAIL.

Afternoon Tea

Sometimes I wonder if I was born a couple of decades too late - lots of things I love were more popular back in my grandmother's day. Not least of which is afternoon tea. I'm not talking about a couple of Tim Tams with a cuppa while the baby has a sleep either. What I really love is full tea - afternoon tea with savouries, cakes and scones - served on the good plates, and eaten with the nice set of cake forks.

Thanks to a visit from Banjo Lawson and Spincop, I got to indulge on Sunday afternoon. The menu - smoked salmon, cream cheese and caper sandwiches, cheese and relish sandwiches, cappucino melting moments, scones, spiced apple tea cake and cupcakes, courtesy of Spincop.

The tea cake was light and airy, and tasted fantastic. I'm looking forward to trying some variations, but here's how it was on the weekend.

Spiced Apple Tea Cake

2 green apples, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
150g butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tspn vanilla
2 cups SR flour
1 tspn ground cardamon
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/2 tspn ground cloves


Preheat oven to 180 C. Place half the apple in the base of a greased ring pan and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Cream the butter and caster sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to combine. Add the vanilla and remaining apple and mix well. SIft the flour and spices together. Fold in to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk. Bake for around 55 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
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