Archive for April, 2007

Oven roasted ratatouille with white beans and lamb

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An easy, two pot meal which is just as delicious as it looks. Obviously the lamb is optional here – the ratatouille is delicious enough to serve on its own. But if you do serve it with lamb as I did, make sure you buy the fancy frenched lamb cutlets as they are much leaner than the regular ones. Alternately, just buy the regular ones and trim the excess fat yourself.

Ingredients:
~3 medium cloves of garlic with skin on
~1 courgette (baby zucchini), cut into chunks
~1 aubergine (baby eggplant), cut into chunks
~1 yellow squash, cut into chunks
~a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
~1/4 cup cannilini beans
~good handful of chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley (1/4 cup)
~2 frenched lamb chops

Method:
Place the garlic in a large roasting tray and coat in a good slurp of olive oil. Bake at 180 degrees C for 30 mins. Remove garlic and set to one side. Add all vegetables except the tomatoes to the dish and toss to coat with olive oil. Season with sea salt and return to the oven for 10 mins. While the vegetables are baking, remove the garlic cloves from their skins and mash with a fork. Combine mashed garlic with the juice of half a lemon and the cannilini beans in a medium mixing bowl and set to one side.

Following the 10 minute roasting period, add the cherry tomatoes and lamb chops to the pan and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.

At the end of the second 10 minute roasting period, remove the tray from the oven. Set the lamb chops to one side and scoop up the vegetables and any residual oil from the pan, and transfer to the bowl containing the garlic, lemon and white beans. Toss to combine, and add the parsely. Mix well and season with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

To serve, place the vegetables on a plate and lay the lamb chops on top. Sprinkle a little extra parsley on the lamb and eat immediately.

Serves 1 but can be easily scaled up for more.

Calories in this dish are approximately 150 for the ratatouille, and approximately 250 for the lamb.

I served this with a lovely limited edition wine from Rosemount Winery: a 2002 Shiraz, Grenache, Viognier. This is a lovely example of this type of wine, which used a white wine grape (Viongier) to add softness to the bold, strong shiraz and grenache flavours. This wine is currently on special at Liquorland stores in Australia for $18 for 2 bottles.

April 28, 2007 at 10:53 pm Leave a comment

Pantry basics: The BEST chicken/vegetable stock (and cheap too!)

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I make this chicken stock for around $3 Australian per 1.5L. This makes the most intensely flavoured stock which is wonderful used in risottos, soups, pastas.. everything!

The secret to this stock is vegetable scraps. Yes, those bits you usually throw out – the skin of the onion, the core of the pepper, the woody ends of the asparagus spears… These are a wonderful source of flavour for your stock. Just keep a snap-lock bag in the freezer, and whenever you have some scraps leftover from your food prep, pop them in the bag. When you have around 1 cubic litre worth, you’re ready to turn them into stock!

This recipe has chicken in it as well for added flavour and texture. But of course if you are a vegetarian it could be omitted. Alternately, substitute the chicken for fish heads to make fish stock, or beef shanks to make beef stock. But I find that chicken is the most versatile type of stock, so I normally make it with chicken.

Ingredients:
~700-800g chicken pieces
~1L vegetable scraps
~ 4 cloves of garlic, bruised
~1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
~3L of water

Method:
First, take the skin of the chicken pieces and trim any visible fat. Don’t be too fussy about this as the stock is skimmed at the final stage, but it helps to remove as much as possible at the start also.

In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer (no lid) for 1 hour. Remove the chicken pieces, and using two forks, pull the chicken meat off the bones. Don’t be too fussy about this – just get the best bits of meat, and transfer them to an airtight container and refridgerate. Return the bones to the pot and continue simmering the stock for a further 1-2 hours or until the liquid level has reduced by approximately half.

Strain the stock through a kitchen strainer to remove the large pieces of vegetable and the chicken bones. Transfer the stock to a plastic bowl and refrigerate overnight. The following day, carefully remove any congealed fat that has formed on the top of the stock. Allow the stock to come up to room temperature and strain through two layers of muslin cloth.

I like to freeze my stock in several different sized portions. Ice cubes of stock are wonderful to use in pasta sauces. Small portions of 100mL or thereabouts are good for casseroles where you just need a bit of extra punch. Large portions of 250mL (1 cup) are for risottos and soups.

Frozen stock can be kept for up to a year.

Coming soon – 20 ideas for the leftover chicken meat!! 🙂

April 28, 2007 at 8:31 am Leave a comment

Stir fried prawns with rice noodles

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Super easy, super tasty.

Ingredients:

~100g raw peeled king prawns, deveined (approx 7 prawns)
~1 cup medium thickness rice noodles, cooked till al dente (as per instructions on pack)
~1/2 green capsicum (bell pepper), sliced
~1/2 red capsicum (bell pepper), sliced
~2 spring onions, sliced into lengths
~1 cup bean shoots
~1 tablespoon soy sauce
~1 teaspoon fish sauce
~1 teaspoon raw sugar
~fresh coriander and sliced green chili to serve

Method:

Stir fry the prawns for exactly 2 mins and not more. Remove from heat. Stir fry the veges for approximately 2 mins. Remove from heat.

To the wok, add the sauces and sugar and bring to the boil on medium heat. Add the rice noodles. Using two forks, stir fry the noodles, drawing apart noodle strands to seperate. Add veges and prawns and continue to stir fry, incorporating noodles with veges and prawns.

Transfer to a bowl to serve and top with a few sprigs of fresh coriander and chopped fresh green chilli.

This dish is as simple and easy as it sounds, and it’s delicious to boot!

Serve with a nice, dry red or a soft white wine. Dish serves 1 as a main course; 2 as a starter. Calories per main course serve: approximately 300. Decrease the calories in this dish by omitting the prawns (it would still be delicious) or using shiritake noodles instead of rice stick.

April 26, 2007 at 11:58 am Leave a comment

Super healthy vegetarian enchiladas with guacamole

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I love Mexican food. Having said that, it is an indulgence that I allow myself only infrequently, due to the high fat and meat content of typical Mexican food. So my mission tonight was to create a Mexican-inspired dish which didn’t break the calorie bank and was free of the heavy meat and fat-laden attributes of typical Mexican food.

For this dish I used Mountain Bread as the enchilada wrapper. These breads have a wonderful consistency and taste, while being very low calorie compared to most flat breads.

Ingredients:

For the enchilada fillings:
~1/4 red onion, very finely sliced
~1/4 red capsicum (bell pepper), very finely sliced
~1/4 green capsicum (bell pepper), very finely sliced
~1 fresh tomato, seeded, finely diced
~1/2 cup (4oz) frozen corn kernels – defrosted
~1/4 cup (2oz) red kidney beans (canned), rinsed well
~paprika, to taste

For the sauce:
~1/2 cup (4oz) tinned diced tomatoes
~Tabasco, lemon juice, ketchup and Mexican chilli powder

For the guacamole:
~1/2 ripe avocado
~2 tablespoons (1oz) extra light (10% fat) sour cream
~Tabasco, lemon juice, salt

Method:
In a sautee pan, gently fry the onion till soft. Add the capsicums, fresh tomato, corn and kidney beans. Cook over gentle heat for 2-3 mins until softened. Add a shake of paprika for colour and flavour. Remove from the heat and set aside

Make the guacamole by mashing the avocado and adding the sour cream, then seasoning with tabasco, lemon and salt to taste. Set to one side

For the sauce, place the tomatoes in a mixing bowl and season with tabasco, mexican spice, lemon juice and ketchup, to taste. Don’t over-sweeten the sauce, as the enchilada filling has the sweet flavour of the corn, so the sauce should be on the sour side to offset this.

To assemble:
Place approximately 1/2 cup of the filling on one side of a slice of Mountain bread. Roll up and place in an oven-proof tray. Repeat until all mixture is gone. Spoon sauce over enchiladas and top with grated cheddar cheese. Bake in a 200 degree C (approx 400 degrees F) oven for 10 mins to melt cheese and heat through.

Serve topped with guacomole, extra sour cream, and a sprinkle of paprika.

Recipe makes 3 enchiladas. Calories per enchilada (with toppings): approximately 200 if Mountain Bread is used. Mountain bread has 70 calories per slice; if another bread is used, adjust the calories accordingly.

Serve this with a great, no-fuss beer. In keeping with the “light” theme of this recipe, I suggest a low-carb option, such as Pure Blonde.

April 6, 2007 at 11:39 am Leave a comment

Pasta with arugula (rocket) and ricotta

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I have seen several varistions on this recipe in different cookbooks, but had never gotten around to trying it until last night, when I was determined to cook only from ingredients that I had on hand. To my pleasant surprise, this dish turned out to be a real winner, combining lovely textures and flavours and delivering plenty of substance without too much fat.

Ingredients:
~1 cup (8 oz) cooked pasta
~1 large clove of garlic, finely diced
~5 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
~juice of half a lemon
~dash of tabasco
~1/4 teaspoon (two pinches) smokey paprika
~splash of white wine (1-2 tablespoons or 1 oz)
~1/2 cup (4 oz) coarsely chopped fresh rocket leaves (stems removed)
~1/4 cup (2 oz) ricotta (not the smooth kind)
~1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) fresh grated parmesan (the better the quality of parmesan, the better this dish will taste)

Method:
In a sautee pan, gently fry the garlic in a good sploosh of olive oil, until just softened. Add the olives, lemon, tabasco, paprika and white wine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow sauce to come to a simmer and turn off the heat. Add the pasta, rocket, ricotta and parmesan, and fold through the sauce. Leave the pan on the burner and continue slowly turning the dish until the rocket wilts and the parmesan softens.

Serve immediately. Serves 1 as a main course, or two as a starter. Calories per main course serve: approximately 350. To reduce the calories, use low fat ricotta and omit the olives and olive oil. To increase the calories, increase the portion size, or serve with a lean grilled chicken tenderloin shredded ontop of the pasta.

Serve this dish with a white wine – something on the sweet side will offset the lemon and tabasco in the sauce. A wonderful Seminon Sauvingon Blanc, such as the one from Stella Bella in Margaret River, would be a perfect accompaniment

April 6, 2007 at 1:26 am Leave a comment

Keema Mattar with cucumber-tomato salsa

Keema Mattar

Keema Mattar is an Indian dish which I first discovered when attending a cooking seminar by the Iconic Asian chef, Charmaine Solomon. This is one of those dishes which looks abhorant, but tastes incredible, and is low-fat, low-cost, easy, quick, and reheats like a dream. Basically, everything the busy gal is looking for in an evening meal!

Ingredients:
~200g lean (the leanest available, please) beef mince
~1/2 finely diced brown onion
~1 clove of garlic, finely diced
~1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
~1 teaspoon tumeric
~1/2 teaspoon garam marsala
~1 chopped fresh red chilli
~1/2 cup frozen peas
~200mL natural yoghurt
~fresh coriander, and extra chopped chilli, to serve

Tomato and Cucumber Salsa
~12 cherry tomatoes, halved
~1 medium lebanese cucumber, diced
~1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
~2 teaspoons natural yoghurt

Method:
Combine all ingredients for the salsa and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. In a sautee pan, gently fry the onion, garlic and ginger in a little oil until softened. Add the dried spices and fry for 30 seconds. Add the mince meat and stir to combine. Allow mince to brown off on all sides, breaking up large chunks. Add yoghurt, chilli and peas. Stir to combine and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 mins, then remove cover and cook a further 5 mins. At the end of the cooking period, the yoghurt should have mostly incorporated into the dish. Add an extra shake of garam masala (approx 1/8 teaspoon) and season with salt to taste.

Serve over steamed white rice with coriander and extra chopped chilli on top. Serve the salsa as a side.

Serves 2 as a main course. Calories in this dish are approximately 400 per serve, which includes 1/2 cup of steamed white rice. To reduce the calories, omit the rice.

April 4, 2007 at 1:26 pm Leave a comment

Easy Sunday night pasta with cherry tomatoes

Pasta with Cherry Tomatos

This is a simple but delicious dish. I used farfale – bow pasta – but you could substitute just about any other shape – just use what you have on hand! This dish is all about simplicity.

Ingredients:
~1 cup cooked pasta
~1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes (approximately 12-15 tomatos), halved
~1 clove of garlic, finely diced
~plenty of fresh chopped basil or italian parsely
~olive oil
~shaved fresh parmesan

Method:
Gently fry the garlic in a good splash of olive oil. Add the tomatos and cook for 1 min. Add the pasta and turn off the heat. Season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Add the fresh herbs and toss to combine. Serve immediately with shaved parmesan.

Too easy!

Serves 1 with approximately 350 calories. Lower the calories my omitting the oil and cooking the garlic and tomato in stock or white wine instead. Increase the calories by upping the oil, parmesan, or increasing the serving size.

Serve this with whatever wine you happen to have open! It would suit red or white equally!

April 1, 2007 at 9:11 am 1 comment