Recipe: Roasted Eggplant and Mushroom Curry

This curry probably should have served four, but it was so tasty that Tall and I ate the whole lot between us. It was delicious and filling, especially when served with homemade chapati.

Eggplant & Mushroom Curry Eggplant & Mushroom Curry Roasted Eggplant and Mushroom Curry – serves 2-4

2 large eggplant (aubergine)
rice bran or canola oil
1/2 tsp yellow or black mustard seeds
1 bunch spring onions, sliced
200g button mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on the size
1 zucchini (courgette), sliced into bite-sized chunks
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped (seeded removed if you don’t like much heat)
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp each: ground cumin, ground coriander, salt
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
fresh coriander

Preheat oven to 200degC. Brush the eggplants all over with oil and prick with a fork a few times. Bake for 35 minutes, until soft.

While the eggplant are roasting, heat 1-2 Tbsp of oil in a wok and fry the mustard seeds until they begin to spit. Add the spring onions, mushrooms, zucchini, garlic and chilli and fry for about five minutes.

Stir in the dry spices and salt; fry for a further 3-4 minutes then add the tomatoes and simmer gently for another 5 minutes.

Cut the eggplant in half and scoop the soft insides into a bowl. Mash to a coarse consistency with a fork, then add to the wok with a handful of fresh coriander leaves.

Bring to the boil; simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Serve sprinkled with more fresh coriander leaves, with plain basmati rice or chapati and mango chutney alongside.


Lunchbox Ideas: Carrot & Zucchini Muffins

Yesterday saw Tiny starting back at kindy. We’ve had a lovely summer holiday, but I think we were all ready to return to some form of normality and routine. Tiny was excited to go back (mostly to play with the cars, he told me…but he looked pretty happy to see his teachers and friends as well), although he was meltdown-tired at the end of the day. This term, we’re mixing things up a bit, with two short afternoon sessions (with most of the wee friends he made last year), and two longer morning sessions (with just one or two of his friends). I haven’t said too much about the changes, mainly because I don’t want to preempt any anxiety or nervousness he might be feeling, but did make a big deal about buying him a new lunchbox.

Well, I actually bought him a fishing tackle box to use as a lunchbox. Separated into six different-sized compartments, it’s perfect for filling with a variety of preschooler-sized snacks.

A couple of weeks ago, I set about having a bulk baking sessions while Pickle had a sleep. The idea was to pop the majority of the goodies in the freezer, to be defrosted as and when they were needed for the lunchbox. These carrot and zucchini muffins are so easy, incredibly moist and tasty, and freeze really well.

Carrot & Zucchini Muffins Carrot & Zucchini Muffins Carrot & Zucchini MuffinsCarrot & Zucchini MuffinsCarrot & Zucchini Muffins – makes 12 mini- + 9 medium-sized muffins

3/4c flour
1/2t salt
1/2t baking soda
2t cinnamon
1t allspice
3/4c brown sugar
3/4c mixed sunflower seeds and pumpkin kernels
1/2c oil
2 eggs
2 medium carrots
1/2 medium zucchini

Preheat oven to 190degC. Grease or line muffin pans.

Sieve the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and allspice into a large bowl.

Add the sugar and seeds; mix well with your hands until well combined.

Beat the oil and eggs in a small bowl; add the carrot and zucchini and mix well. Add to the dry ingredients and fold together until just mixed.

Spoon into muffin pans; bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked.

Asparagus & Lemon Risotto

IMG_4526This dish is spring on a plate. The smells, the flavour, the colour….everything about it just sings as loud as the birds which have come to chirp in our garden.

I chose to cook this risotto the cheat’s way, using the same throw-it-all-in-and-walk-away method for this Pumpkin and Roast Garlic Risotto, but if you are a risotto purist, feel free to make this the “normal” way (I’ll just wave at you from the lounge where I’m playing with my kids, while you’re standing at the stove, stirring stirring stirring…).

IMG_4512 IMG_4523 IMG_4527Asparagus & Lemon Risotto – serves 4

2T olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lemon, finely zested and juiced
2c arborio rice
1/2c white wine
750ml vegetable stock
1 bunch asparagus spears (woody ends removed), chopped in thirds
1/4-1/2c parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan; add onion and sauté until soft but not browned.

Add garlic and half the lemon zest; stir and cook a few minutes.

Add the rice and cook for two minutes, stirring to coat all the grains in oil.

Pour in the wine and stir until the liquid has evaporated.

Pour in the vegetable stock and stir well; cover the pan and leave to cook for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, add the asparagus pieces and cook, covered, a further four minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining lemon zest, parmesan cheese and seasonings. Cover and set aside for a few minutes.

Taste; add lemon juice, cheese, and seasonings to your liking.

Completely unrelated to food BUT – have you entered my children’s book giveaway which closes tomorrow at 5pm?

Fun with Food: Pizza

Growing up, homemade pizzas usually meant one thing: mum would open the fridge and throw every conceivable pizza topping onto a thick base and smother it with cheese.

Ham, pineapple, mushrooms, capsicum in all the colours of the rainbow, olives, bacon, onion…I could go on. I don’t imagine that I’m the only one who grew up in a household where making pizza was all about packing as many toppings on as humanly possible??

Our first experience of “proper” pizza was in Sardinia. The bases were thin and delicious, topped with a basic tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and perhaps one or two other toppings. That was it.

San TeodoroThe flavours were so simple, but so amazing; everything worked together, and you were able to taste and savour each flavour, instead of just tasting cheese. My favourite pizza was the San Teodoro (sauce, mozzarella, slices of eggplant), which I tried in the beautiful little village of Santa Maria Navarrese, the night we got engaged.

Since then, the way we make pizza has changed. I’m a huge fan of the “less is more” philosophy, and some of the nicest homemade pizzas we’ve had have been incredibly simple.

IMG_2941Our favourite combinations (always on a base of pizza sauce and mozzarella) are:

~ smoked salmon, cream cheese, fresh dill & lemon zest;
~ tomato & basil (commonly called the Magherita);
~ proscuitto & black olives, garnished with fresh rocket;
~ steak & blue cheese (sear the steak first, rest & slice thinly; add to the pizza for the last five or so minutes in the oven);
~ bacon, mushroom & brie;
~ sausage, mushroom & black olive (parboil the sausages first & slice thinly); and
~ pear & blue cheese, garnished with fresh rocket

IMG_2944What pizza toppings do you love? Are you a fan of the thin pizza base, or the fat pizza base?

(And in case you were wondering, yes, I was in a bit of cheese-induced discomfort after eating these delicious pizzas, but it was worth it. Oh, it was certainly worth it!)

Fun with Food
Fun with Food is a way for you to share your foodie (mis)adventures with other people. You don’t have to be a superb cook, or produce Masterchef-quality plates of food; this will be a place to share new and favourite recipes, meal plans, cooking on a budget, lunchbox ideas, new products, kitchen successes and disasters (because we all have those!) and maybe some handy tips for getting fussy kids to eat their dinner!

The linky will open on a Tuesday and stay open for a week, so I hope you’ll share your kitchen adventures, and be inspired by what other people are doing in the heart of their homes.

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Spaghetti with Mushroom and Bacon Sauce

This is a dish I remember my mum making when I was a teenager, and before I moved out of home, it was the first “recipe” to be written in to my book of favourites.

I’ve adapted the recipe over the years, adding things here and there depending on what’s in the fridge and what I’m feeling like, but it’s always an easy, cheap and tasty meal that everyone seems to enjoy.

Add chopped chicken to up the protein stakes, or omit the bacon and use vegetable stock to make this a vegetarian meal. If you don’t have any fresh parsley, try fresh thyme instead, and feel free to serve this with fettucine (spinach fettucine is especially tasty here!) or any other long pasta.

Spaghetti with Mushroom and Bacon Sauce
 – serves 4

250g mushrooms, sliced
3 rashers bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1T butter, plus 1t extra
2t flour
3/4c chicken stock
3/4c sour cream
1 egg yolk
salt & black pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the 1T of butter in a fry pan and cook the bacon and onion until the onion is clear. Add the mushrooms and cook for three minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Over a medium heat, melt the 1t of butter in the same pan; add flour and cook for one minute.

Gradually stir in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low; stir in sour cream and egg yolk.

Season to taste; add vegetables back into the pan with 1/2c water from the pasta pot  and heat without boiling. Add more water from the pasta to loosen the sauce if desired.

Add fresh parsley just prior to serving over cooked spaghetti.


Fun with Food
Fun with Food is a way for you to share your foodie (mis)adventures with other people. You don’t have to be a superb cook, or produce Masterchef-quality plates of food; this will be a place to share new and favourite recipes, meal plans, cooking on a budget, lunchbox ideas, new products, kitchen successes and disasters (because we all have those!) and maybe some handy tips for getting fussy kids to eat their dinner!

The linky will open on a Tuesday and stay open for a week, so I hope you’ll share your kitchen adventures, and be inspired by what other people are doing in the heart of their homes.

Please copy and paste the button below and include it in your foodie post!
By clicking on the link below, you’ll be taken to an external page, where you can enter your link and see who else is linking up. Please take the time to visit them, too!

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Meal Planning with Pinterest

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying recipes that I’ve pinned on Pinterest. There have been some dismal failures, but generally, everything has turned out pretty darn tasty.

I made Cumin Spiced Baba Ganoush, which was delicious, although Tiny stunk of garlic the day after chowing down on a big bowl full.

I attempted macarons; the passionfruit and milk chocolate ganache worked perfectly, but the meringues macarons were another story.

We ate this fantastic Hawaiian Pulled Pork for dinner last night when Tall got home from his work trip…and again for lunch today. We combined it with some fine coleslaw in multigrain pita breads – yu-um!

Tall begrudgingly admitted that these vegetarian burgers weren’t too bad, and didn’t complain about taking the leftovers for lunch the next day. The texture wasn’t quite right thanks to my seeming inability to read the recipe correctly; I duly cooked up one raw cup of quinoa and was merrily adding it to everything else, when I happened to read that I should be using one cooked cup.

I love pears, and I love roasted parsnip, so when I saw this recipe for a combination of the two, with added shallots and macadamias, I had to try it. And oh my, it was fantastic, the perfect side dish to a bland roast chicken.

This Palak Paneer was quite bland at first taste, but improved the more we ate, and was apparently even better the next day. Paneer itself is pretty tasteless, and the spinach sauce wasn’t very strong, but the more time the two swam around together, the better the marriage became.

And this cranberry-glazed pork belly was a-MAY-zing. I tweaked it a little to suit the ingredients I had, but used the same basic cooking techniques. I bought a nice slab of pork belly from the market last weekend, so we might be trying this one again this week.

Have you entered my giveaway? It’s open internationally!

Roasted Vegetable Quiche

On the rare occasion that we have vegetables leftover at the end of the week, I always try to use them all up in one foul swoop. I’ve used them to make vegetable soup, Pastry Squares and Roasted Vegetable Muffins, but this time, I wanted something a bit more substantial.

I found a recipe for a quiche pastry that used ricotta cheese (a tub of which was also found lurking in the back of the fridge), and decided that the leftover vegetables could be thrown together into something quite delicious.

I cut the vegetables in a dice of approximately 1cm, as I wanted this to be a chunky quiche. I used a yellow capsicum, but aesthetically, I think a red would look so nice. However, at the price they are at the moment, looks are definitely NOT everything!

Roasted Vegetable Quiche – serves 4-6

1 large potato, peeled and diced
400g pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded and diced
200g kumara or sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 capsicum, diced
1 onion, peeled and cut into wedges
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 T olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4c plain flour
40g butter
40g ricotta cheese
1c milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 – 1/2c grated cheese
fresh basil leaves, shredded

Preheat oven to 200degC.

Combine vegetables in a large roasting dish with olive oil; season well and bake for one hour. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Combine flour, butter and ricotta in a food processor; gradually add up to 3 T of the milk, to form a soft dough.

Roll mixture into a ball and cover with cling film; refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Lightly grease a quiche dish or flan tin with olive oil or oil spray.

Roll pastry out on a floured surface; gently fit to dish and trim edges.

Turn oven down to 180degC; blind-bake pastry for 10 minutes, then bake a further 10 minutes with blind-baking paraphernalia removed.

Combine remaining milk, eggs, cheese and basil in a small bowl.

Spoon vegetables onto pastry (you’ll end up with quite a mound); tip egg mixture over the top and bake for 70 minutes, or until set.

Stand for at least five minutes before serving.

* This was a fantastic way of getting our toddler to eat a LOT of vegetables in one go – he protested and earned himself a stint in time out, but eventually ate a good triangle and actually enjoyed it!

Pastry Recipe: Family Circle ‘Low-Fat Recipes’

Vegetarian Rogan Josh

Last Christmas, my sister asked for a cookbook: Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. I dutifully ordered a copy from The Book Depository, and waited for it to arrive. In the meantime, I turned on Food TV, and discovered a show of the same name. One episode saw Jamie cooking Peri Peri Chicken and Portuguese Custard Tarts, and I was drooling in front of the telly.

When the book arrived, I flicked through and saw, to my delight, that these recipes were in there, and promptly ordered myself a copy too.

So far, I think we’ve enjoyed 50% of the meals I’ve made from this book, and 50% have been so-so. I like the concept, and the recipes are varied so there’s sure to be something to suit everybody’s cooking style. I generally don’t make the full meal, but pick and choose depending on the season, and who I’m cooking for.

One recipe I saw on his show recently, that looked delicious, was for a vegetarian Rogan Josh curry. I checked my book, and yep, it was in there, so I decided to give it a go. We sat down with Tiny one Sunday evening and demolished virtually the whole curry – it was so good!

Here is my slightly-amended version of Jamie’s recipe. I also made his clove-scented Fluffy Rice, and some paratha breads to have with it, which were the perfect accompaniment.

The aftermath

Vegetarian Rogan Josh

olive oil
2 onions, sliced
3 cups diced pumpkin (roughly 2cm dice)
1 small cauliflower, in bite-sized chunks
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional, depending on your spice preferences)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
handful fresh coriander, stalks and leaves finely chopped (reserve some leaves for garnish)
500g jar Rogan Josh sauce (I used a medium Tandoori Palace sauce)
400g tin chickpeas, drained
130g pre-washed baby spinach
natural yoghurt, to serve

Put a large saucepan on a med-high heat. Add a good lug of olive oil and add the onions and a splash of water. Cook, stirring, until softened.

Add pumpkin, cauliflower, chilli, garlic and coriander to the pan and stir well.

Add Rogan Josh sauce and chickpeas; season and stir well.

Cover and simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, approximately 20 minutes.

Remove lid and check seasonings; add spinach and stir until wilted.

Serve on basmati rice*, garnished with coriander leaves and a dollop of natural yoghurt on the side.

* Jamie’s clove-scented Fluffy Rice: put 1 mug of rice into a medium pot; add a lug of olive oil and a few whole cloves. Cover with 2 mugs of boiled water; add a pinch of salt then cover and boil over a medium heat for 7mins. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for a further 7mins (lid on) before serving.

Original Recipe: Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

On Sunday night, I cooked a roast dinner. Chicken, with all the trimmings (including a horribly lumpy gravy). As I was dishing up the pumpkin, I realised that I hadn’t saved any for the vegetable lasagna I planned on making the following night.

I could make an emergency trip to the store for one thing (gah!), or I could short-change Tall’s lunchtime-leftovers, and keep a few pieces behind…..sorry, honey, but you got heaps of spuds and kumara instead!

I made this baby up as I went along, based on what I had in the fridge and cupboards, and it worked out really well. The only thing I would change next time would be to cut my little eggplants into thicker pieces, as a couple of them cooked away to nothing more than skin, which made for a slightly unusual (and unpleasant) texture.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (with Chicken) – serves 4

6-8 portabello mushrooms, skinned
5 finger eggplants, thickly sliced (or 1 large eggplant)
olive oil
1 bag of baby spinach, washed
2c roasted pumpkin (I threw in a leftover piece of kumara, too)
250g ricotta cheese
100g feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg, lightly beaten
freshly grated nutmeg (or a pinch of ground)
salt & pepper
optional: 2c shredded cooked chicken (I used leftovers from the roasted bird)
2c tomato pasta sauce (either from a jar, or homemade)
lasagna sheets (I use dried sheets that don’t require pre-cooking)
tasty cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 180degC.

Trim any woody ends from the mushrooms; place in a large roasting dish with the slices of eggplant. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until tender (approx. 20-30mins).

Bring a pan of water to the boil; cook spinach for 30 seconds until just wilted. Drain thoroughly; cool, and squeeze out any remaining liquid.

In a large bowl, roughly mash the roasted pumpkin. Add half the ricotta, the feta, lightly beaten egg and seasonings. Mix well.

Spoon 1/2c tomato pasta sauce into the bottom of a baking dish. Cover with a layer of lasagna sheets.

Lay mushrooms and eggplant slices evenly over the top, followed by the shredded chicken, if using. Spoon the remaining pasta sauce over the top, and add another lasagna layer.

Blob the wilted spinach evenly over this layer, followed by the pumpkin and cheese mixture; spread evenly with a spatula. Add another layer of lasagna.

Spread the remaining ricotta over the top of the lasagna, ensuring an even cover. Sprinkle with grated cheese, and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 30mins, until the lasagna sheets are cooked and the top is golden brown. Stand for 5mins before cutting to serve.

Oh, and did you know that ‘lasagna‘ refers to one dish, while ‘lasagne’ refers to many? I had no idea until recently.

Vegetable Pastry Squares

I know, innovative name, right? This is one of those recipes that came about somehow – and is continuously evolving – but never got given a very fancy name. However, when Tall asks what’s for dinner and I say, “Those vegetable pastry square thingees”, he knows exactly what I mean, and so the name has kinda stuck.

This is a good meal for those days when you don’t want to go to the supermarket and have a few odds and ends of vegetables lurking in the back of your fridge. I always keep an emergency pack of pastry in the freezer for days such as these!

Vegetable Pastry Squares – serves 2-4

2-4 sheets of pre-rolled flaky puff pastry – one sheet per person
pesto – basil or sundried tomato are nice
4c vegetables, chopped into roughly the same-sized pieces – I usually do a mixture of mushrooms, zucchini, capsicum, onion and tomato, plus eggplant and fresh parboiled beetroot when in season; you can use any veges that take your fancy and that stand up to a decent roasting
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
75g feta cheese, crumbled – or you can use a nice blue or brie, or leave out the cheese altogether
chopped fresh herbs – I like to use basil or oregano, but thyme and parsley are also good
1T milk

Preheat oven to 180degC.

Line baking trays with baking paper and lay pastry sheets on top. If I am making enough for Tall to take leftovers for lunch, I can get one-and-a-half sheets on one baking tray.

Using the back of a sharp knife, gently score a line 1-2cm from the edge of the each sheet, being careful not to cut all the way through.

Spread a thin layer of pesto onto the inner part of the pastry (ie: leave the border you have just scored clear).

Combine all your vegetables in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season, and mix well.

Spoon the vegetables on top of the pesto, trying to keep them in an even layer to ensure they cook…well…evenly.

Top with crumbled/torn cheese (if using) and fresh herbs.

Brush milk over the borders (or use an egg wash, if you’re making enough to warrant beating up a whole egg).

Bake for 15-25 minutes, until the vegetables and base of the pastry are cooked through, and the borders are puffy and golden.

Serve hot, warm or cold – whatever tickles your fancy.

These can be made as small or as large as you like, and you can literally add any toppings, just like a pizza. The addition of chopped bacon or cooked chicken or sausage is nice, as is onion jam, a fruit chutney, or tomato relish.