Monday, April 9, 2018

Chicken Lazone

I was looking for another chicken dish - the last new chicken recipe I cooked was definitely going to be a hard act to follow.  After cooking "Marry Me Chicken" and getting the rave reviews and requests for repeat servings from the family I have to say I was a little worried attempting another new chicken recipe.  But OMG!!! Damn Delicious you are so right - I have found another magnificent chicken recipe.  And this meal was devoured also.   Let's face it any dish with a creamy sauce is already on the track of being a winner.

Quite a different way of making this creamy sauced dish I have to admit however it was definitely not hard and was made without limited effort no to mention another quick to prepare meal for a mid week feast.

Instead of putting the herbs in with the cream sauce they are all mixed together with some olive oil to create an intense rub for the chicken.  Combining this is all done in a snap lock bag so there is also not much mess especially on your hands.  Then you simply pan fry the chicken add the cream sauce ingredients pop in the oven while you cook the other vegetables and voila your meal is done and ready for the hungry hoards.

Talk about flavoursome - the mix of smoky paprika, garlic, cayenne pepper, basil and oregano is one of my new favourites especially when smothered in a creamy sauce.  Due to the combination of the herbs the cream sauce had a tingle of smokiness and heat with each mouthful but it definately complimented the spiciness of the chicken breasts.

I really liked this dish - in fact I am finding it hard to make judgement on which is my favourite.  The two dishes Chicken Lazone and Marry Me Chicken are both delicious!  One is spicy and creamy the other is creamy and somewhat a rustic Italian style dish.  What can I say?  I am torn I really am?  I would love to hear what you think?

Chicken Lazone
(Recipe adapted from Damn Delicious)

Serves: 6

4 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 skinless chicken breasts, approx 150 grams each, fat trimmed
2 tablespoon olive oil
coking spray
4 tablespoons reduced fat butter, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups skim milk
2 cups reduced fat thickened cream
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Combine paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano and basil in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

In a large ziploc bag, add chicken, olive oil and paprika mixture, shaking to coat thoroughly.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook, flipping once, until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes on each side.

Once cooked remove chicken fillets from the frying pan and place in a large casserole dish in a single layer.  Repeat with remaining chicken fillets.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the skillet. Add garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Gradually stir through the milk and cream until slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

In a small bowl or jug mix together the water and cornflour.  Quickly stir into cream mixture.

Pour cream mixture over the chicken fillets and place in oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the cream mixture is bubbling.

Remove from oven and serve immediately with chicken, garnished parsley, if desired.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Tuscan Roast Pork

I mentioned that I received a beautiful cookbook from my gorgeous friend Bernie for my birthday when we cooked Rioja Chicken a little while ago and to be honest the book hasn't made it to the bookshelf yet - in fact it hasn't left the kitchen.  The cookbook is ABC's Delicious - Love To Eat and if you get a chance to get a copy I would encourage you to do so.  It is one of the better cookbooks I have read and used in such a long time.

This is the second time that we have cooked the Tuscan Pork.  The recipe as written has two components - one being the pork and the other being Mustard Fruits.  I am going to confess to having only cooked the pork as I do not believe that any of the family would try let alone enjoy the Mustard Fruits so I haven't even bothered with making them.  If anyone would like the recipe though please contact me and I can email it to you.

The fascinating thing about this recipe which actually goes against everything that I have learnt about cooking pork is that the whole piece of pork belly is marinated including the much treasured skin or the crackle.  Every other recipe will state you must keep the skin dry, do not get the skin wet, pat down with paper towel to ensure it's dry, it won't crisp up if the skin is wet, etc.  Well not this recipe... and it does crisp up producing a fantastic rosemary and fennel infused crackle.

Marinading the pork belly doesn't come any easier than this either.  A combination of fresh rosemary and fennel seeds mixed with olive oil and lemon seasoned with salt - it is simply that easy.  As decadent as this sounds it is one of the easiest marinades but it's by far one of the tastiest.  You can definitely not match the flavour of fresh rosemary or the slight aniseed flavour of the fennel.   Yet together they taste amazing.

We adore the flavours of this pork belly recipe.  Is it our favourite?  Yes definitely.

Tuscan Roast Pork
(Recipe adapted from Delicious - Love To Eat)

Serves: 6 - 8

2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil

Ensure pork rind is scored to your liking.

Combine rosemary, fennel, lemon zest, salt and oil in a bowl then rub all over the pork. 

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Prior to cooking remove pork belly from fridge and sit at room temperature for approx 30 minutes to take the chill of the pork.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Place the pork, skin side up, on a roasting rack over a roasting pan.  Fill pan with 2cm water.  Roast pork for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to 180 degrees Celsius and cook for a further 2 hours, topping up water if necessary.  Remove from the oven and site aside to rest, loosely covered with foil.

Slice pork and serve.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Raspberry and Chocolate Croissant Pudding

When I decided to have the family over for Easter lunch I had already planned on using a frozen apple pie as dessert.  Upon removing from the freezer I realised that it had been crushed and was not looking to great to serve up to the family.  This now posed the question - what are we going to do for dessert?  What ever it was going to be I knew that it had to be quick and easy to prepare as time was ticking and our guests would be arriving soon.

Opening our freezer lid (we have an awesome Haier 519L chest freezer - a little overkill but it well used in our household) I immediately saw some croissants and thought I know I can do something with these!  Then I remembered a croissant pudding that I made many moons ago which went down a treat.

While this pudding is very similar to a bread and butter pudding - using same technique but I have to admit replacing the bread with croissants added a texture and sweeter taste to the dish than that of bread.  The custard was light and velvety which soaked beautifully into the delicate french pastries.  This all coupled with a scattering of raspberries and melted chocolate pieces was, to be honest, heavenly.

Not to mention, even with frozen croissants, it was prepared in 15 minutes and ready to put in the oven when required.  The original recipe called for white chocolate but a substitution was made due to not having that ingredient in the house.  I also added vanilla bean paste to the custard mixture to give it a little more decadence.

Served warm with ice cream and thick dollop cream (yes I know drool) this pudding got the tick of approval from all of the family... my father-in-law ate two serves even after admitting that he doesn't like bread and butter pudding.  Thumbs up I say.

Raspberry and Chocolate Croissant Pudding
(Recipe adapted from

Serves: 6 - 8

6 croissants
20 grams butter
1/4 cup raspberry jam
100 grams milk chocolate baking chips
100 grams frozen raspberries
8 eggs, lightly whisked
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup thickened cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. 

Lightly grease an 8 cup capacity ovenproof dish.

Use a small serrated knife to split each croissant in half. Lightly spread the cut side of each croissant with a little butter. Spread the jam over the butter. Arrange the croissants, chocolate and raspberries in the prepared dish.

Whisk the egg, milk, cream, vanilla and sugar in a large jug until well combined. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the croissants. Set aside for 15 mins to soak.

Place the dish into a larger roasting pan and pour enough boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake for 35-40 mins or until custard is just set. 

Set aside for 10 mins to cool slightly before serving.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Marry Me Chicken aka Sicilian Chicken

So are you as intrigued with the name of this dish as I was?  As soon as I came across a recipe called "Marry Me Chicken" I guessed that it was obviously good and did some more investigation.

Tradition, as it is told, is that there are two dishes that are guaranteed to lead you to the alter!  Far fetched I know but the first dish, "Engagement Chicken", is a roast chicken  and the second is "Marry Me Chicken", which is a creamy casserole.  And before you ask, yes there are so many different recipes for both dishes.  I was reading and reading for a long time before I settled on the recipe I was going to cook.

A quick history lesson regarding the both dishes.  Starting with Engagement Chicken - this was  developed by a fashion editor at Glamour Magazine, following a trip to Italy. Afterwards the recipe was given to co-worker to prepare for her boyfriend and soon afterwards, the couple was engaged. The recipe made the rounds in the office and three other women in the office were offered marriage proposals soon after making the dish for their boyfriends.  The recipe featured in Glamour Magazine later on after it was dubbed "Engagement Chicken". Soon afterwards the magazine began receiving letters from women claiming that their boyfriends proposed shortly after being served the dish. The magazine claims 70 couples have married after the women served their boyfriends the dish.

Now for the story of Marry Me Chicken is not to different. Instead of using a whole chicken this recipe calls for skin on chicken thighs or pieces which are fried until crispy. According to the article I was reading Delish editors started devouring these crispy chicken thighs soaked in a savory sun-dried tomato-thyme cream sauce, people started blurting out "I'd marry you for that chicken" and "OH MY GOD THAT'S MARRIAGE MATERIAL."

So what I can make of my own google investigation?  It is obvious that people have heard of Ina's Engagement Roast Chicken and Marry Me Chicken - I clearly did not have a clue!  Secondly they are both obviously renounced for their flavours and the after effects of serving either dishes to partners according to the romantics among us.

The romantic in me decided to try cooking the Marry Me Chicken even though I did not expect this dish to cause anything incredible to occur (this year hubby and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary).

I didn't have a whole chook nor did I have any skin on chicken thighs so I substituted chicken breast fillets cut into 4 large pieces other than that I followed the recipe.  The smell during the cooking process was magnificent and I have to admit that I was actually looking forward to eating this dish myself.

As mentioned before, these chicken pieces enveloped in a creamy sun dried tomatoes and thyme sauce were magic.  Actually like nothing I have tasted before.  The chicken was tender and juicy.  The sauce thick and creamy.  It was everything in just one dish. 

I wanted to marry myself LOL!!  

Marry Me Chicken or Sicilian Chicken
(Recipe adapted from

Serves: 4

cooking spray
4 chicken breast fillet, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup light thickened cream
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper. Sear until golden, 3 - 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate.

To the same frying pan, add garlic, thyme, and crushed red pepper flakes and let cook until fragrant, approximately 1 minute. Add chicken stock, cream, sun-dried tomatoes, and Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. 

Bring to a simmer, then return chicken to skillet and bake for 15 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked through.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Thai Red Curry Paste ~ Thịy n̂ảphrik kæng s̄ī dæng

Tonight I decided that we would do a "Fakeaway" night at home... this generally consists of homemade pizza or burgers or any items you would normally go out to eat or order in. It's a fun way to prep and eat food and generally the whole family gets involved. Fakeaway tonight was Thai and it was decided that we would have two curries, rice, poppadoms and roti bread.

The two curries we decided on were Red Chicken Curry and Green Chicken Curry. I had already made the Thai Green Curry Paste ~ Kæng k̄heīywh̄wān thịy and it was in the freezer.  So all I needed to do was make the Thai Red Curry Paste.

As I always insist making your own curry pastes are very easy and taste a lot nicer than those in the jars with no preservatives and additives.  They keep generally for around a week sealed in a container in the fridge or frozen they will last up to several months.  Once you make your first paste you will be making more and more - trust me.....

Anyway so Red Curry Paste yes it has chillies in the recipe but this is not a hot Thai Curry - needless to say my kids like this one.  

This recipe is simple and I mean really simple - by using a food processor it's ready in 10 minutes.  While it's not an authentic recipe using all the correct ingredients it has the same beautiful flavour and texture.

The base is red chilies, garlic, ginger, and shallot.  With the addition of a magnificent combination of spices, fish sauce and coconut cream and the acidity of lime juice - it all smells nice before the paste is even made.

Everything in at once, a quick whirl in the food processor and you have perfect and vibrant paste ready to use in a curry or however you like.  Paste will taste very strong at this point but will mellow when you use it.

Thai Red Curry Paste ~ Thịy n̂ảphrik kæng s̄ī dæng
(Recipe sourced from The Curry Kitchen Cookbook)

Makes approximately 1 cup

1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, pale part only, roughly chopped
1 - 2 red chillies
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large piece galangal or ginger, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground corinader
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons chilli powder
3 tablespoons thick coconut cream
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place all the ingredients in a food processor , blender or mortar and process well until smooth.

If you want a thinner sauce add a little more coconut milk.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Rioja Chicken

My beautiful friend Bernadette gave me an absolute stunner of a cookbook for my birthday, ABC's Delicious - Love To Eat, and I think I have already read it from front to back a couple of times now.  It's a book covering several cuisines from around the world.  The book's layout is clear and pictures of each dish are enticing and well taken.

I have to be honest, as you can all probably imagine, I am addicted to actual cookbooks.  While the internet makes it very easy to find a recipe, explore new opportunities and pinpoint certain ingredients or cuisines there is nothing like sitting down and flicking through a cookbook - reading the instructions and drooling at the pictures.  I have a bookshelf full of cookbooks - I'm talking about 200+ as I just love them.

Another this I also enjoy is sitting down to a Sunday Roast dinner.  The Sunday Roast is a big thing for me as it's a time when all the family are together.  We are normally all home either relaxing (maybe even recovering from a big weekend) or getting prepared for the new week ahead but we are together.  That's always been very important to me.  It's also something that my parents ensured happened every week extending their hospitality to my aunties and uncles, along with their many friends.  I remember Sunday afternoons with 20 or more people at the table as my father loved being surrounded by people and it was always a case of the more the merrier in the Davies household.

While flicking through the new cookbook I stopped immediately when I cam across this recipe for Rioja Chicken. Rioja (pronounced Ree-OH-hah) is a Spanish style Roast Chicken.  The picture looked amazing and as soon as I read the recipe I knew that was what we were having for our Sunday Roast.  While I knew it wasn't going to be a traditional roast it sounded delicious and my eyes were just fixed on the picture.

A combination of smokey chorizo, garlic, red wine and chillies made this an exotic but well balanced flavour sauce and the chicken was melt in your mouth.  Cooking it covered for 1 hour definitely sealed in the juices along with the flavours.  The sauce was thick and very rich but not overpowering.

I managed to find a bottle of Rioja in Liquourland, which I was surprised about,  If you love the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon but the fruitiness of Grenache then you'll love Rioja .  It's made from Trempanillo grapes, popular here in Australia but originating in Spain.  If you cannot find Rioja then substitute it for what red wine you have.

Served with some roasted hassleback potatoes and steamed vegetables this Spanish take on a roast chicken was perfect.

Rioja Chicken
(Recipe adapted from Delicious - Love To Eat Cookbook)

Serves: 8
SmartPoints per Serve: 14

2.2 kilogram whole chicken
freshly ground black pepper
2 onions, sliced
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
300 grams chorizo, casings removed and chopped finely
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups Rioja or other red wine
2 x 400 grams cans diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons brown sugar
4 bay leaves
4 small dried chillies
1 x 400 gram can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Ensure chicken is rinsed thoroughly and pat dry with kitchen towel. Season with salt and pepper.

Spray a heavy based casserole dish or oven safe frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 2 - 3 minutes until softened and golden (not browned). Add chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes or until starting to crisp.

Add stock, wine, tomatoes, brown sugar, bay leaves and chilli. Stir to combine.

Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the sauce mixture. Cover with a lid or foil and place in the oven. Cook for 1 hour 15 minutes then carefully remove from oven. Remove lid or foil and brush chicken with some of the sauce.

Return chicken to the oven and cook, uncovered, for a further 45 minutes to an hour or until juice runs clear. Remove from oven.

Transfer chicken to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Set aside.

Place the casserole dish or frying pan full of sauce over a medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes until sauce has reduced and thickened. Add chickpeas and stir through to heat.

Place chicken back on top of sauce and serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Broccoli and Bacon Carbonara

Everyone has that one go to dish, right?  You know that one dish that just comes together, is easy and plates up perfectly and more importantly everyone enjoys.  Hubby's dish that always works is Nice Chicken, my mam's is always Shepherd's Pie and mine is Maple Mustard Chicken however the kids will say that it's Pasta Carbonara and the only reason I say this is because everytime I ask them what they would like for dinner I get the same answer - Pasta Carbonara!

I have to be truthful - it's not my most favourite pasta dish.. I prefer tomato based sauces laced with chilli and bolder flavours to be perfectly truthful however when it comes to risottos - the creamier the better.  But that's another story....

Tonight I decided to try a recipe that both hubby and I thought would not only be different but full of nice flavours.  It's a total spin on Pasta Carbonara with a creamy broccoli and cheese sauce instead the normal Carbonara sauce (which is basically eggs, cheese and cream).  Crispy bacon batons and broccoli florets made for a visually pleasing dish also.

An easy dish to make and was on the table in just under 45 minutes I thought this would of been a hit.  Both hubby and I thought it was nice although we both added crushed chilli flakes to ours, one child thought it was "ok" but main Carbonara lover said it was horrible!  I'm actually thinking if I didn't call it Broccoli and Bacon Carbonara and just named it Broccoli and Bacon Pasta would there have been a different mind set??

Broccoli and Bacon Carbonara
(Recipe adapted from

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per serve: 15

500 grams gluten free pasta or pasta of your choice
2 large head broccoli, cut into florets
1 small garlic clove, chopped
70 grams Parmesan, finely grated
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
300 mls light thickened cream
4 eggs
cooking spray
300 grams short cut bacon, cut into batons
additional Parmesan to serve

Cook pasta in a saucepan of boiling water following packet directions until tender. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. Return pasta and reserved liquid to pan.

Meanwhile bring a large saucepan of boiling salted water to the boil over high heat. Add broccoli. Simmer for 4 minutes or until tender crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon. Refresh under cold running water. Pat dry.

Process half of the broccoli, garlic, half the cheese and oil in a food processor until smooth. Season. 

Whisk cream, eggs and remaining cheese in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, spray a frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Cook bacon, stirring, for 6 minutes or until golden. Drain on paper towel.

Stir broccoli mixture, extra broccoli florets and 3/4 of the bacon into pasta. Add cream mixture. Toss until well combined. 

Sprinkle with remaining bacon and extra cheese.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Lemongrass and Chilli Larb with Mint Salad

Alex and I are currently researching our family tree.  It's been and still is a very interesting activity not only for me but for Alex also.  We are trying to do both sides of her heritage so she has something to pass on when she is older to the future generations.  I had already started my family - the Davies' and the Lewis' - which has taken me back many generations.  

My blood line is definitely British - a combination of Welsh and English with no real surprises except the odd skeleton or ten in the closest.  However my children believe that I must have a hint of Asian, Mexican or Indian somewhere in history due to the food that I always cook.  Apparently "always" cook which was said in an interesting tone LOL!  To be totally honest, if I traced back and found another nationality I would be truly impressed.

When pregnant on both children I didn't really have any weird and wonderful cravings unlike many ladies - however I did eat Beef Vindaloo Curry (and mind you the hotter the better) like it was going out of fashion.  Every week hubby came home armed with a takeaway from our favourite Indian even detouring on his way home if he wasn't in that area.  Strangely my mother also ate lots of curry when she was pregnant on both my sister and I?  Obviously it runs in the family although I don't think my sister did this.  What cravings did you or your partner have?

Anyhow it's no secret that I really enjoy flavoursome foods and cooking with fresh produce, herbs and spices is my passion.  If I can make it rather than using prepacked packet or jar ingredients I am actually in my element.  Plus it's rewarding making things and experiencing all the flavours coming together.  So many countries have cuisines that truly make your taste buds tingle and your tummy just wanting more.  Thai food has that effect on me - I love the zesty sweetness, saltiness and hotness that comes with combining all the ingredients.  It's all wonderfully balanced and gives you so many flavour experiences in one mouthful.

This Lemongrass and Chilli Larb did exactly that.  Jam packed with lemongrass, garlic, chilli, fish sauce, lime and sugar each mouthful was a flavour explosion.  Served with a crunchy mint salad I was definitely reminded of my time spent in Singapore and of course, of when we go to dine in our favourite restaurant in Springvale and Clayton.  The freshness of the salad complimented the flavours of the Larb.  It's no wonder the Asian cuisines incorporate fresh herbs and salads into most of their meals - it's something that I really enjoy and indulge in quite often.

Once again another simple weeknight wonder that will get your family thinking you have been to a cooking school or that you should be on My Kitchen Rules.  Give it a go and let me know what you and your family think.... 

Lemongrass and Chilli Larb with Mint Salad
(Recipe adapted from

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per Serve: 10 

1/2 cup white rice
cooking spray
1 fresh mint leaves
1 red onion, cut into thin wedges
250 grams bean sprouts, trimmed
1 kilogram lean beef mince
2 teaspoons oil 
1 1/2 lemongrass stalk (white part only), finely chopped
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
4 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook rice as per packet instructions.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine mint, onion and bean sprouts in a bowl.   Put in refrigerator until required.

Heat a wok over high heat. Spray with cooking spray.  Add 1/2 the mince. Stir-fry for 5 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a bowl, draining excess fat. Repeat with remaining mince.

Add oil to wok. Stir-fry chilli, lemongrass and garlic for 30 seconds. Return mince to wok with fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. Stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add coriander. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Serve mince with rice and mint salad.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Tex-Mex Pork with Charred Corn Salad

I am trying to incorporate more salads into dinner - while we do have salad as a side dish there have only been a handful of times where I have actually served up a main salad for dinner.  I have no explanation really as a really tasty salad is quite satisfying that's for sure.  With this summer already being especially warm it is actually a perfect meal - it's still meat and veg after all.

Tonight I had decided on using pork fillets.  Normally one of the family favourite pork meals is 
Chinese Roast Pork which we normally serve with an Asian style salad and rice paper rolls.  This time I thought I would steer away from the Asian flavours and try the family with Tex Mex.

We all love Mexican food in the Murray house so in all honesty this was a no brainer when it came to the flavours.  Can you actually imagine a world without Mexican food and all the vibrant flavours?  I could not that's for sure and I don't think most of my family or friends couldn't either.  Nachos such as Spicy Chicken Nachos, Quesadilas including one of the kids favourites Chicken and Corn Quesadilas and of course Enchiladas (Chorizo and Smoky Beef Enchiladas, Beef and Capsicum Enchiladas)  to name a few are staple in our house including Homemade Taco Seasoning.  Have a look here for more Mexican dishes we have made.

So now for something completely different, a dry rub marinade for the pork fillets that was full of vibrant flavours such as smoked paprika, cumin, oregano and cayenne pepper - it smelt delicious even while preparing.  For something with a lot of fragrance the preparation was very minimal.

The salad itself was quite basic also.  The corn was chargrilled until just browning.  The charring of the corn gives it such a different flavour and texture.  Corn is naturally sweet and the corn was a little crunchy and soft with that flame grill taste.  The combination of the lime dressing and the salad made my tastebuds dance and this combined with the smoky mexican flavours of the pork was fantastic.

Tex-Mex Pork with Charred Corn Salad
(Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers Australia)

Serves: 4
SmartPoints per serve: 4

3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground smoked paprika
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
480 grams trimmed pork fillet
3 fresh corn husks removed
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1⁄3 cup fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
1⁄3 cup fresh basil, torn
1⁄2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups baby spinach leaves
cooking spray

Combine the cumin, paprika, oregano and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle pork all over with the spice mixture.

Lightly spray a chargrill or barbecue with oil and heat on medium heat. Cook the pork and corn, turning, for 10 minutes or until cooked through and browned. Cover pork with foil and set aside for 5 minutes to rest. Thickly slice.

Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, remove the kernels from the cobs. Place in a large bowl with the tomato, coriander, basil and onion.  Toss gently to combine.

In a small jug combine the lime juice, oil, salt and pepper.  Stir to mix well.

Serve pork with rocket and corn salad.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Baked Curried Beef and Rice

Apparently I have been cooking too many curries lately.... this was a sad statement to be told.  Who in there right mind cannot have enough curry?  Further discussion led me to two decisions.  The first being my experimenting with making curry paste from scratch is not satisfying the kids and has possibly made me a little obsessive.  Or two I am not cooking enough Butter Chicken - a curry that they would all happily eat every day!!!  I think it's the later for sure but sadly I do think it's the fist reason.

Looking for a weeknight wonder, I came across this recipe which didn't involve making a curry paste but did however have the curry in the name.  Was I game to serve it up?  Hell yes.

Such an easy dish to make and really took no time at all.  Pop in the oven and voila you have a rice bake that had an Indian style flavour which not surprisingly they all loved. This curry was more a spicy tomato flavour than that of an authentic curry but due to the spices used it was very enjoyable and not that "Plain Jane"  Saying that it was quite mild curry so very kid friendly.  I added some carrots and capiscum to bulk it out and add extra vegetables.

Another perfect weeknight wonder.......

Baked Curried Beef and Rice
(Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers Australia)

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per Serve: 7

cooking spray
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
500 grams lean beef mince
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried saffron
3 teaspoons curry powder, mild
2 teaspoons ground all spice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 x 400gram can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups beef stock
2 carrots, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
2/3 cup frozen peas, boiled
150 grams Basmati rice
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

Lightly spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Cook onion, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened. 

Add mince and cook, breaking up lumps, for 5-7 minutes or until browned. 

Add garlic, saffron, curry powder and allspice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, beef stock, carrots and capsicum and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly. Stir in peas.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place rice in a medium saucepan. Cover well with cold water. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes or until rice is almost tender (you still want a little firmness). Drain.

Add rice to beef mixture. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in egg. 

Transfer mixture to prepared dish. Bake, covered with foil, for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Stand for 5 minutes before serving.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Asian Beef Salad

The weather has been ridiculous this summer and we are yet to venture into February which is traditionally the hotter of the summer months.  There have already been +40 degree Celsius days which have really knocked most Australian's around not to mention power shortages due to the overloading of the grid.  I have to admit to having our air conditioner on for several days in a row and sometimes I didn't feel I was getting relief at some stages.

Obviously this made cooking in the house a huge non-negotiable topic.  It was cooking outside either on the barbecue (keeping in mind if it is a Total Fire Ban) or in the pizza oven or it was cold foods!  Simple!

I decided that we would have an Asian style Beef Salad - tender warm beef with salad and an Asian infused dressing.  Everyone thought that sounded great and were enthused by the idea.  So I was armed with some nice pieces of rump steak already to make a marinade and then I hit a problem.  What marinade, what dressing, what flavours???  Seriously this just went from super easy to super hard.

Why hard?  Google Beef Salad Recipe and see how many options you get?  I was actually overwhelmed but I knew that I wanted to make it with Asian flavours - chilli, lime, garlic, fish sauce, etc.  So many different versions of recipes depending on the region in the World or cuisine but the more I read the more the same key ingredients kept appearing. Some recipes marinated the meat prior to cooking other's didn't, some did this and some did that!  So after about an hour of googling and two cuppas later I decided that I had read enough recipes and was just going to wing it.  

So here is my version of an Asian Beef Salad - a fusion of Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Oriental, and all the other recipes I read this morning.  Marinated tender rump chargrilled and then sliced served on a bed of mixed salad and herbs.  Of course, then drizzled with a salad dressing made from scratch (also used as the marinade).  It was devoured.......

Asian Beef Salad

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per Serve: 8

1 teaspoon sambal oelek
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper
800 grams rump steak
2 cups mixed lettuce leaves
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion, very finely sliced
1 lebanese cucumber , cut horizontally then cut into slices
1/4 cup coriander leaves , roughly chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves , roughly chopped

In a jug mix together the sambal oelek, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice and sesame oil. Season to taste with salt (don't use too much) and pepper.  Pour half into a large snap lock bag or casserole dish.  Put remainder into the fridge to use as the dressing.  

Ensure that the rump is trimmed of all fat.  Place whole pieces into the snap lock bag or casserole dish.  Ensure that the rump is coated in the marinade and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight, if possible.

When ready to cook preheat barbecue grill to high temperature.

Remove rump from marinade and place straight on the grill.  Cook for approximately 2 minutes each side for rare or cook to your liking.  Remove from grill, cover with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile place salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, coriander and mint onto a serving platter or dish.

Cut steak thinly across the grain. Place on top of salad leaves.  Drizzle with remaining dressing, if desired, and serve immediately.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sticky Chinese Chicken Tray Bake

Is it me or are the clocks ticking faster then normal already this year?  At the moment I no sooner get up, go to work, come home, cook dinner then go to bed - whammo another day gone. And I already feeling tired and it's only 18 days into the New Year.  I have so many things I need to get done and want to do around the house, with the family, with my studies but my daily/weekly "To Do List" is starting to become my "Wish To Do List - I actually do not feel I am achieving that much at all.  

Needless to say, I have been looking for quick fix dinners and weeknight wonders to at least ensure that we are all still eating well.  It's so easy to say "let's get takeaway" when in reality by the time our family decide what food we are getting, choose items of the menu, make the phone call something can literally be in a pot cooking!   I am sure you can all agree with this?

What's your favourite weeknight wonder?  We have quite a few that frequent our table for a quite dinner including Chicken Taco Bake (which is stupidly easy), Devilled Sausages, Beef Keema with Cumin and Currant Pulao, and Penne Boscaiola just to name a few.

Obviously I am always on the lookout for new quick and easy dishes that I can add to our collection and I recently came across this one which instantly appealed to my taste buds - sometimes I wish I could smell and lick my computer screen!  Don't you?  How good would that be?

I think it took me 5 minutes tops to marinate the chicken (which I did the night before) , 5 minutes to put it in a casserole dish and place in the oven.  Super easy!  Already a winner in my books. While it baked I prepped a Crunchy Asian Salad and steamed some rice - perfect partners for what was an amazing dish.

Melt in your mouth chicken pieces laced with a perfect balance of hoisin sauce, honey and Chinese five-spice was delicious.  The crunchiness of the cashew nuts complimented the chicken and there was also the right amount of sauce once cooked.  I don't like dry chicken and this wasn't.

This one-pan chicken dish makes a cheap and easy midweek family meal and we will be definitely having it again.

Sticky Chinese Chicken Tray Bake
(Recipe adapted from BBC Goodfood)

Serves: 8
SmartPoints per Serve: 7

8 chicken chops or thighs, skin removed
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons clear honey
11/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 bunch spring onions, cut into 3 cm lenghts
50 grams cashew nuts, toasted

Slash the skin 2-3 times on each thigh and place in a large snap lock bag or casserole dish.

Mix together the hoisin, sesame oil, honey, five-spice, ginger, garlic and some seasoning. Pour over the chicken and toss to coat.  Marinate the chicken for 2 hrs, or overnight if you have time.

Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Arrange the chicken thighs in a large roasting tin in a single layer.  Cook for 30 - 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, basting at least once.

Stir through the cashew nuts and sprinkle the spring onions over the chicken. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Serve with steamed rice and Crunchy Asian Salad, if desired.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Echidna Meatballs aka Porcupine Meatballs

Well I definitely surprised myself while menu planning this week!  Not because we planned a full week of super quick and easy meals to get us to Friday as we have a busy week but I was surprised, actually stunned, that I hadn't blogged this gem of a recipe!  And I cannot even begin to think why?

My mam had a variety of homestyle dishes that she cooked as staples when we were growing up as did everyone's mothers.  Ours always had a British twist as although we were living in Australia my parents were born and raised in Wales.  So we had Shepherds Pie, Bangers and Mash with Onion Gray, Lamb Stew, Curry Pie, Toad in the Hole and of course, Eggs Beans and Chips.  These were the meals that were regularly on the table and we all enjoyed them.  I can tell you that there were never any leftovers when these went on our table.  In fact I still get a little excited if I know any of these dishes are what we are having for dinner.

However, my kids, have had to deal with me creating my own list of family favourite dinners.  As easy go to meals especially during the working week items that can be found on the menu planner can include Hamburgers, Taco's, Penne Boscaiola, Devilled Sausages, homemade pizza (your choice of topping), Chicken Parmagiana, Echidna Meatballs and of course, Eggs Beans and Chips.

I understand many of you may have or not had any of the dishes I have just mentioned so just for the record Toad in the Hole does not contain any toads, Porcupine Meatballs do not contain any porcupine meat and Echidna Meatballs definitely do not contain any Echidna meat.  Are we clear?  I am happy now that we have that sorted!

Firstly this recipe is based on Porcupine Meatballs, an American dish that has apparently been a staple for generations.  As we live in Australia I changed the name to Echidna meatballs based on the fact that we don't have Porcupines down under.  The Echidna, or Spiny Anteater, is the equivalent to it's Northern Hemisphere counterpart.

So what is an Echidna meatball?  Basically its a beef meatball with raw white rice added during the mixing stage.  Once the meatballs start cooking the rice starts protruding from the meat.  This resembles a Echidna or a Porcupine.  It's quite a groovy cooking technique and look pretty cool, especially if you are a kid.

Echidna meatballs are a very comforting and easy dish to make. The tender meatballs flavoured with herbs are cooked in a delicious tomato sauce.  There is no need to brown up the meatballs prior as they keep their shape well.  Note there is not a lot of stirring required during cooking so please do not be tempted to continually stir as you will ruin the effectiveness of the rice poking from the meatball.

Like with most hand me down recipes, googles or cookbook searches you will find a multitude of different versions all claiming to the best.  This recipe is nice, tasty and very easy but is it the best?  We think so but I am unsure.  Many use canned tomato soup but we find that using a can of condensed soup seems to make the sauce very sweet.  We prefer to add some diced fresh tomatoes along with canned and passata.  Add some chilli flakes if you wish to spice up the tomato sauce or even some different herbs.  Its a great recipe to experiment with also.

This is a perfect one pot weeknight wonder, even more so for me tonight as the man of the house, Noel, cooked dinner.  It was wonderful to come home from work and smell the deliciousness as I opened the front door.

Serve with mashed potato or plain pasta and I am sure your family will love them.

Echidna Meatballs aka Porcupine Meatballs

Serves: 4
SmartPoints per Serve: 7

500 grams lean beef mince
1/3 cup raw long grain rice
1 teaspoon beef stock powder
ground black pepper
1 egg white 
4 fresh truss tomatoes, diced
350 ml Italian passata
1 x 440g can diced tomatoes
1 onion, finely diced
1 cup water
2 teaspoons chicken stock powder 
2 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chilli flakes (optional)

In a mixing bowl add mince, rice, stock powder and egg white. Season with salt and pepper.  Using your hand, mix all ingredients together until combined.  Shape into twelve even sized meatballs.

Place the tomatoes, passata, canned tomatoes, onion, water, chicken stock powder, garlic, oregano and chilli, if using, in a flameproof casserole dish or heavy based frying pan (with a lid). Mix well and bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Gently place meatballs in tomato sauce.

Put lid on casserole dish and gently simmer for 1 hour, stirring occassionally, until meatballs are cooked and rice is protruding.

Serve with mashed potatoes or pasta (add SP as required).

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Bacon, Sausage, Jalapeno and Sriracha Pizza

Another fakeaway evening!!  Not really the fact of the matter is hubby and I pretty much are cooking for ourselves at the moment so it's our choice and doesn't have to be family friendly as such.  The kids are home, sort of, one is doing evening shifts at the local supermarket and has something quick after work.  The other, is caring for his partner who just had 4 teeth (2 molars and 2 wisdom) removed and cannot eat a great deal at the moment that requires chewing.  My gorgeous boy has gone out in sympathy with her and is eating soup and mashed potatoes (soft foods) with her.

Needless to say our choice tonight was pizza... Noel cooked his usual Margherita, which as usual was yummy and vibrant in flavour. I, of course, had to try something completely different and it was.

Firstly lets start with the dough.  Now over the years, we have experimented with many different pizza dough recipes.  Some good but too technical.  Others complete failures.  A lot of the time we use pita bread as the base as it's quick and easy and actually quite good for you if watching your weight.  But if you want a good pizza shop pizza base you need to make your own dough.  At the moment we are using a recipe we watched Poh make on her show Poh's Kitchen  which was aired on the ABC here in Australia.  It's very easy and tastes great.  That's really all that matters when it comes to the base.  You can try this or use what ever base you like.

Now for the pizza toppings.  As we all know pizza shops are pretty traditional with their menus.  Some have a gourmet range but other than the one or two specials most shops offer the same toppings.  I like to think outside the square and have spent many hours googling and scouring other blogs for different ideas.  I must say that I have read some pretty interesting gourmet ideas and some that just did nothing for my tastebuds!

I had some fresh jalapenos so I wanted to use them so I searched jalapeno pizza and it was incredible - all these new ideas.  But so many different versions on this pizza, Bacon, Sausage, Jalapeno and Sriracha Pizza.  So as always I just went with the idea and made up my own.  

Many of the recipes I read called for salami or summer sausage but I decided to use fresh Italian sausages.  I squeezed them out of the casing and made them into bite size pieces.  These tasty mouthful of fennel, garlic and chilli gave the pizza a really nice element and it was nice to bite into.

Fresh jalapeno has a different taste and texture from the pickled jalapenos you purchase in a jar.  Obviously they are fresh to start with but it's the texture, crunch and the unknown heat with are enjoyable - all without the vinegar taste.

It's no secret that we love to eat spicy food and somehow we seem to bring it into every cuisine where possible.  Sriracha Sauce is always on hand at our place.  It's hot and fantastic.  The combination of the jalapeno and Sriracha Sauce gave this pizza a definite kick - tastebuds tingling with every mouthful.  This along with the smokiness of the bacon, everyone loves bacon, the crisp onions, the cheekiness of the sausage and the gooey cheese made for a fantastic gourmet pizza!

The perfect fakeaway for sure!  We ate off the pizza tray and used napkins - very posh indeed!!

Bacon, Sausage, Jalapeno and Sriracha Pizza

Serves: 4 (2 slices per serve)
SmartPoints per serve: 12

1 serve pizza dough
cooking spray
1/4 cup tomato paste
50 grams  grated light tasty cheese
1 raw Italian sausage
4 slices shortcut bacon, cooked, chopped
1 brown onion, sliced
1 fresh jalapeno, sliced
5 button  mushrooms, sliced
2 bocconcini balls
2 teaspoon sriracha, or more or less depending on taste

Make dough according to the recipe you are following.

Preheat pizza oven to correct heat or a kitchen oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Spray a pizza tray with cooking spray.  With wet hands stretch the dough over the pizza tray.

Take the end off each sausage to open casing.  Squeeze the filling out and break up into bitesize pieces.

Spread tomato paste evenly over dough.

Top with grated cheese, sausage, pork, bacon, onions, jalapenos and mushrooms.

Individually stretch the bocconcini balls and scatter on top of pizza.

Drizzle with sriracha sauce.

Place pizza in oven and Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy at the edges, and the cheese is bubbly and brown.

Serve immediately.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Thai Green Curry Paste ~ Kæng k̄heīywh̄wān thịy

We don't cook a great deal of Thai curries at home purely as the kids are not fans of this style of Asian cooking - too much coriander and chillies from memory.  But I am sure as their taste buds develop even further they will come to enjoy it.  Needless to say hubby and I really enjoy a good thai curry.  My favourite is actually a Beef Massaman Curry, which I have made before but didn't make my own curry paste - maybe that's the next one on my list to make?

Working through this list of wonderful fresh ingredients there may be some items you are familiar with or you may not. If you are lucky to have a good green grocer or well stocked supermarket you shouldn't have problems getting these ingredients.  Don't panic however as you can substitute some if you do not have access to them in your area.  Some come in paste form in jars or tubes available in supermarkets.

The Lemongrass stalk is too tough to eat on its own so has to be finely crushed or chopped.  This herb has a refreshing lemon-lime taste with a tinge of mint and ginger. It is a key ingredient in Asian cuisine, particularly Thai, used in curries, stir fries and noodles. It pairs beautifully with fish, chicken and coriander. 

Galangal comes in two different varieties.  One being Greater Galangal and the other is Lesser Galangal.  Confused yet?  They both have different tastes. Lesser Galangal has a stronger taste, described as a mix between ginger and pepper. Greater Galangal’s flavour is pungent with a lemon-like sour taste which is described as a mix between ginger and cardamom. In general Galangal’s flavour is spicy, but not as hot as ginger.  Saying this if you cannot find Galangal you can substitute it for ginger.

Thai Basil is a type of basil native to Southeast Asia. Its flavor, described as anise and licorice like and slightly spicy.  Thai basil has small, narrow leaves, purple stems, and pink-purple flowers. Once again if unavailable in your area you can use common basil.
Kaffir lime leaves and to a lesser extent, fruit rind, is an essential ingredient in Thai, Indonesian, Indian and Malaysian cuisines.   The rind is covered in small bumps and ridges which identifies them compared to the common lime variety  . Kaffir limes are generally smaller than other limes and what juice they yield is quite acidic, bitter, and strongly sour.  The rind of the fruit is slightly bitter.  The leaves have a lingering yet delicate citrus flavour. I find that the leaves are easy to find in most supermarkets and Asian grocers.  Common lime can be substituted for Kaffir Lime if juice and zest are required however common lime isn't as pungent.

Chillies come in many shapes, sizes and flavours.  They can be sweet, fruity, earthy, smoky and at times ass-burning HOT.  All chilli peppers change colour as they grow - generally green, yellow and then red.  When red they are considered to be at their sweetest.  When you remove the seeds and inner membrane of the fruit, much of the heat is taken out.  I used long green Cayenne Chilli for this recipe and I kept all the seeds in.

French Shallots are milder, sweeter flavour than the normal brown onion and are generally a lot smaller (about the size of a pickled onion).   Do not confused this with Spring Onions which are often also called Shallots.

I would presume, and I hope that I am correct, that everyone is familiar with Coriander??  Well Coriander, like most herbs, grows in soil and therefore has roots.  The roots are very flavoursome and are also used quite a lot in Asian cooking.  When you use the roots in a recipe please ensure you give them a really good rinse and the roots can contain dirt and you don't want this in your meal. 

The smell coming from just actually making the paste was amazing.  During the process of making it into a smooth paste I was imagining how good this was going to taste.  My eyes were watering a little due to the intensity of the chillies and shallots vapours in the air but it all added to the experience.

This recipe makes approximately 2 cups.  It is suitable to keep in the fridge for a week in a sealed jar or can be frozen.  I freeze most of the curry pastes we make in cooking portion sizes, in this case I will freeze it in 3 tablespoons lots.

It's actually amazing that all these wonderful ingredients can be put together and form such an intense yet tasty paste to form the base of a wonderful curry.

Thai Green Curry Paste ~  Kæng k̄heīywh̄wān thịy

Makes: 2 cups
Makes: 16 x 30 gram portions
SmartPoints per serve: 1

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 sticks of lemongrass, sliced into rings
2 inch piece of galangal or ginger, peeled and sliced, or  2 tablespoons crushed ginger
20 Thai basil leaves or basil leaves
1 bunch coriander - leaves, stems and roots
zest and juice of 1 kaffir lime or lime
10 kaffir lime leaves, vein removed and sliced
15 long green chillies, thickly sliced
8 garlic cloves or 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
6 french shallots, peeled
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt

In a dry frying pan on medium/low heat, toast the coriander, cumin and peppercorns until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Once cool, using a mortar and pestle or a mini food processor, add the coriander mix and pound/pulse until ground.

Add remaining ingredients in the mini food processor and pulse until a smooth paste forms.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)