Archive for the ‘Mains’ Category

Spring Minestrone

Posted on: May 7th, 2011 by admin 6 Comments

I like Jamie Oliver and I know not everyone does, but he really does a lot more for the world than many.  He has tons of great free recipes on his site and this one is particularly delicious.  We did change the recipe a bit, but like he says, a good minestrone should change with the seasons…  Plus you don’t have to use ALL these veggies, if you can’t find some – leave them out or substitute a favorite.

  • 1 liter (4 1/2 c) good chicken, ham or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 bulb of fennel
  • 1 cauliflower
  • 4 baby zucchini (or 2 regular size)
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 80g (2.5 oz)green beans, finely sliced
  • 80g (2.5 oz)yellow beans, finely sliced
  • 80g (2.5 oz) fine asparagus
  • 80g (2.5 oz) peas, podded
  • 80g (2.5 oz) broad beans, podded
  • 80g (2.5 oz) spaghetti, broken-up
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 small handful of fresh green or purple basil
  • 1 small handful of fresh chives

In a big pot bring the stock to a boil. While it’s heating up get all the vegetables prepared and put to one side. The fennel has to be halved, sliced and finely chopped, the asparagus needs to have the woody ends removed, the stalks finely sliced and the tips left whole, the cauliflowers need to be divided into small florets, the zucchinis need to be quartered lengthways and finely chopped and finally the tomatoes need to be blanched. Cut them in half and finely slice.

In a big fry-pan put a few tablespoons of olive oil and heat the pan on a medium heat. Add the garlic, spring onions and fennel and gently fry without colouring at all for about 10-15 minutes. Then add these veggies to the stock, along with the rest of your prepared vegetables and the pasta. Bring to the boil, simmer for only about 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper and serve in big bowls with a sprinkling of chopped basil and chives.

You don’t need to cook it for a long time, because all these ingredients are great fresh and will cook quickly.  Jamie also suggests a dollop of fresh pesto ontop for a pop of flavor, but that’s up to you.  We have some on crusty bread for dunking.  Enjoy!

Song for this recipe:

“You’ve got the love” – Florence and the Machine You've Got the Love - Lungs

Florence and the machine released this song on the record Lungs, which is entirely great. It’s full of punchy, solid songs that have good beats and good lyrics. Florence is not as soft and girly a singer as her flowy white outfits and sugary red hair might suggest. She sings with conviction and the tunes transform wonderfully along the way. Good for dancing, parties and/or frequent listening.

Happy Mothers Day – you’ve got my love Mum.  XO

French Onion Soup

Posted on: April 3rd, 2011 by admin 2 Comments

It’s not often we get visitors from Aus, and rarely our best mates, but they did come last year and it was grand.  Sometimes it’s hard to be vegetarian in the world of French cuisine and this recipe proves that all the more!  Joh ordered French onion soup as the vegetarian option at a few French bistros, which she thoroughly enjoyed and asked us to find a recipe of equal tastiness.  Alas, on further inspection, and for those of you who know – French onion soup is hardly vegetarian.  It’s a rich beef broth with slow cooked onions.  However – here is the recipe and you can substitute veggie broth for the beef…

  • 8 c sliced onions (use a mix of mostly brown, white and a bit of red)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp worstershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • 8 c beef broth (or veggie alternative)
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 French baguette
  • Gruyere cheese

Melt butter in a large saucepan and add the onions. Add sugar and a little salt to help the caramelisation process. Cook over medium to low heat until the onions start to caramelise – around 20 minutes. Deglaze the pan with white wine and then pop in a couple of sprigs of thyme and cook together. Pour in the stock and cook for another few minutes. (Vegetarians, I’ve heard if you also add red wine instead of white – you’ll get a more ‘beef brothy’ taste!)

Ladle the soup into little ramekins or thick soup bowls and cover with a slice of bread. Top with gruyere, a pinch of pepper and chopped thyme and grill the top until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden.  Alternatively if you don’t have a grill (like us) place the toasts with cheese in the oven until the cheese melts and then pop the toasts ontop of the soup. Also if gruyere is hard for you to find, you can use swiss cheese with a bit of cheddar.

This recipe is highly adapted from Michael Smith’s French Onion Soup – A Recipe from Food Network Canada.

Song for this recipe:

“Place Des Abbesses” – Pierre Lapointe Place des Abbesses - Pierre Lapointe

The first time I heard of Pierre Lapointe was when he came into the salon I used to work at for a haircut.  I had no idea who he was, but everyone else was very excited.  I researched him when I got home – there’s a lot of good music here in Montreal – so I knew he might be alright.  And I wasn’t disappointed, sounding like a classic songster from old, his hipster style belied a lovely, thoughtful voice.

Fig and mozzarella salad

Posted on: March 7th, 2011 by admin 2 Comments

Well the weather here is erratic to say the least, but we can all tell spring is almost ready to start showing, I’m dying to make this salad and will do so with dried figs.  In the mean time down in Aus fresh figs abound.  This is a fast simple recipe that works so well for a warm summer evening, the flavors are just right, it’s healthy and delicious -  a salad you’ll dream about all year round.

  • 6 fresh figs
  • 180g buffalo mozzarella
  • 1/3 c hazelnuts, toasted are better
  • basil leaves, handful
  • 50g baby rocket (arugula) leaves
  • 50g watercress or baby spinach leaves

red wine vinegar glaze

  • 1/3 c (80ml) red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 c (80ml) water
  • 1 Tbsp caster sugar

Toss the salad leaves together in a big bowl.  Tear up the mozzarella and add to the salad.  You could use another cheese also, bocconcini, feta or gorgonzola are also delicious.

To make the glaze, place the vinegar, water and sugar in a small saucepan over high heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and cook for 2–3 minutes or until thickened. Set aside to cool completely. Arrange the figs, mozzarella and rocket on a plate and drizzle with the glaze to serve. Serves 4.

Original recipe from Donna Hay – Modern classics 1 (I believe, I do own many of her books though so it may be a different one!)

Song for this recipe:

“In the summer” – Loon Lake In The Summer - In The Summer - Single

A five piece band hailing from Melbourne, Loon Lake were recently Unearthed by triple j, as far as I know they have only recorded a number of singles, but I’m guessing an album won’t be far away.  You can hear they’re having fun and a fresh salad calls for a fun dance around the kitchen for sure.

Macaroni and Cheese

Posted on: November 13th, 2010 by admin 4 Comments

An American classic.  I never had it until this week and I am over 30!  I know outrageous.  How can I have missed out on this creamy fatty mess of cheesy goodness?  It reminds Beans of his childhood, in fact you ask almost anyone in North America (and elsewhere I know) and it reminds them of their childhood too.  Somehow even though I have an American mother, I missed out.  We were more of a pumpernickle kind of family if you know what I mean.

I wanted a classic simple recipe, one that was as easy as possible and didn’t stray from the classic ingredients much.  I want the real thing (but not kraft) I don’t want gruyere or blue or parmesan (although I know these would most likely really enhance it).  I want the cheddar goodness, even if I am about to trip back to Australia for summer and a swimsuit that will likely not appreciate this recipe.

If there was anyone all American I could turn to, I knew it was Pioneer Woman.  She has a couple recipes for mac and cheese, but when I read this one, I knew it was mine.  A couple of minor adjustments and here it is!  How could I have waited so long? (for Aimee ♥)

  • 4 c dried elbow macaroni
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 c (1/2 Stick) butter
  • 1/4 c plain flour
  • 2 1/2 c whole milk
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 4 c (1 lb) cheddar cheese, grated (yes you can use some jack, parmesan, gruyere etc)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Optional Spices: Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, Thyme

Cook the macaroni just a little so that it is still very firm. It should be too firm to eat right out of the pot, cooked for 3-5 minutes. Drain.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and set aside.

In a large pot, melt the butter and whisk in the flour, so that no lumps form.  Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat, whisking constantly, this is called a roux.

Pour in milk and add the mustard still whisking until smooth. Cook for another five minutes or until thick, then reduce heat to low.

Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking egg. Whisk together till smooth.  Then pour this egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly again. Stir until smooth.  Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF).

Reserve 1 cup of cheese and stir the rest into the pot to melt.  Add salt and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt as needed! Make sure you add enough salt, you really don’t want this to be bland.  Mix in the drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.  Pour into a buttered baking dish and top with the extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

Song for this recipe:

“Mack the knife”  Frank Sinatra Mack the Knife (Live At Radio City Music Hall, June, 1990) - Sinatra: New York (Live)

This was my favorite song as a kid, which I think disturbed my mother a little and rightly so.  It was originally from an old German opera Die Dreigroschenoper,  the Threepenny Opera, but later made popular by Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin and others.  I think such a classic American dish requires listening to a classic American voice, and really, that’s Frank.

Monday Meats

Posted on: August 9th, 2010 by admin 2 Comments

Oooh I got you hey?  Expecting another Sunday sweet, but little did you know I was going to be too busy to post this weekend.  So here’s an amazingly delicious recipe for pork dumplings.  We like to make them from scratch, including the dumpling wrappers, but you can always use bought ones, it’s much faster.

Pork and Shiitake mushroom dumplings

Makes about 24

  • 2 shiitake mushrooms, chopped (you could use dried/soaked ones)
  • 250g (1/2 lb) pork mince
  • 1 egg
  • 95g (1/2 c) drained canned water chestnuts, finely chopped
  • 3 green shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 Tbs Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing)
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
  • generous pinches of salt and white pepper
  • 24 flour dumpling or wonton wrappers (recipe below)

Combine all the above ingredients (besides the dumpling wrappers) together in a large bowl and mix well with your hands, it’s messy, but the best way. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 15 – 30 minutes to develop the flavours.

Place half the dumpling wrappers on a clean work surface. Spoon 1 teaspoon of the pork mixture into the centre of each wrapper. Brush the edges with a little water. Pinch the edges together to enclose the filling. Repeat with remaining wrappers and pork mixture.

For steamed dumplings: Line the base of a bamboo steamer with non-stick baking paper. Place 8 dumplings in the steamer and place over a wok or saucepan of simmering water. Steam, covered, for 6 minutes or until cooked. Repeat, in 2 more batches, with remaining dumplings.

For fried/potsticker dumplings: Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut or sesame oil in a wok or fry-pan.  Not too hot, use a medium heat.  Place the dumplings in the pan and put a lit ontop.  Cook for 6-8 minutes without stirring and then scrape the dumplings off the pan (they don’t call them potstickers for nothing) onto a plate to serve.

We like to eat these with noodles and green or snake beans.  But they are great alone with a soy dipping sauce any time of day.  You can also freeze them before you cook them, just place some baking paper between each one in a container and freeze for up to 3 weeks.

Dumpling wrapper recipe:

Makes about 30

(Wonton wrappers can also be used, they generally have an egg in them)

  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 c Ice water

In a bowl mix together the flour and salt, then stir in water a little at a time, only as much as you need to form a smooth dough.  Knead the dough for a minute or two and then let it rest for about 20 minutes.

Tear off little golf ball sized pieces of dough, roll into a ball with your hands and then roll out really really flat with a rolling pin.  Aim for about 1 mm thick and about 7.5cm or 3 in round.  Very thin. Repeat with all the dough (it’s a workout!)

This is an original recipe – well Beans’ recipe.  He is very talented!

Song for this recipe:

“Heat of the Moment” – Asia  Heat


Posted on: June 10th, 2010 by admin 1 Comment

This week was Kel’s birthday, the youngest, and although I live on the opposite side of the planet I knew exactly what to make for dinner on her birthday.  Her favorite – a great lasagne.  Truth is I never really made one before- Beans always makes them, but being busy with work the task was up to me.  I asked Jamie, Ina, Stephanie, Nigella, and the Italian Mum’s that I work with and woh, out came the best lasagne I have had in a long time.

It’s quite easy to make- just a bit of prep time.  We like to add veggies and also have a layer or two of bechamel sauce.   For vegetarians, the meat can easily be substituted from crumbled firm tofu.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 600g (1.3 lb) lean beef mince VEGETARIANS firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 400g (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • 10 – 14 sheets lasagne pasta
  • a few large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 1/3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Basic Bechamel sauce with parmesan (optional)
  • 500ml (2 cups) milk
  • 1/2 c parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 brown onion, halved, coarsely chopped
  • 4 whole black peppercorns
  • 40g butter
  • 2 Tbsp plain flour
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Salt & ground white pepper

Bechamel sauce recipe below – if you’re using it, make it first!


For the lasagne:

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until softened.  Add the mince, and cook, stirring to break up the meat, for 5 minutes or until browned.

Put the pasta sheets on to boil- we’re just going to cook it for about 10 minutes- to soften it before baking- so keep your eye on it.  Just take it off the heat and drain the water after 10 min or soft.

Now add carrot, tomato paste, tomato and oregano to the mince mixture. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.


Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF). Lightly grease a 6cm-deep, 20cm square or rectangle baking dish. Arrange 2 pieces of pasta over base of dish. Spread one-third of the mince mixture over pasta. Top with one-third of the spinach. Top with pasta pieces.  Then a layer of bechamel sauce (if using) then more meat, a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, spinach, pasta, bechamel,  meat, until you reach the top of the pan.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until cheese is golden and melted. Let it stand for 10-20 minutes (to set). Serve.

For the bechamel sauce:

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until gently foaming. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until mixture bubbles and begins to come away from side of pan. (When making a sauce that contains flour, it’s important to cook the flour. If you don’t the sauce will taste floury) Remove from heat.

Pour in half the milk gradually (otherwise the sauce will become lumpy), whisking constantly until mixture is smooth. Gradually add the remaining milk, whisking until smooth and combined. (If sauce becomes lumpy, strain through a fine sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon to remove any lumps.)

Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and add the cheese. Taste and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Recipe for bechemel sauce adapted from and the rest is ours.

Song for this recipe:

“Kelly watch the stars” – Air Air - Moon Safari - Kelly Watch the Stars

Spinach and feta Gözleme

Posted on: May 12th, 2010 by admin 4 Comments

Finally a not so sweet treat!  Gozleme is a tasty Turkish flat bread, often sold at markets around the world.  It’s a great snack easily heated up in the toaster at work and not too hard on the waistline.  There are quite a few filling options, but the most common (and our favorite) is spinach and feta.  Also you can just make the dough with flour, water and salt, which is probably more traditional than using yeast, but the recipes below is truly delicious.

  • 7g (1 sachet) instant dried yeast
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 3 c plain flour
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 100g (3.5oz) baby spinach
  • 200g (7oz)  feta cheese, crumbled
  • lemon wedges, to serve

Combine 1 cup of warm water, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl. Stir and let stand in a warm, sunny place for 5 minutes or until bubbles form on the surface.

Sift flour into a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix to form a soft dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes or until elastic. Cut the dough into 4 and place on a greased baking tray. Cover with a clean tea towel. Stand in a warm, sunny place for 20 minutes or until dough roughly doubles in size.

Roll each piece into a 35cm x 45cm (13in x 17in) rectangle. Place one-quarter of spinach over half of each rectangle. Top with feta and season with salt and pepper. Fold dough over to enclose filling. Press edges together to seal.

Preheat a barbecue plate or heavy saucepan/griddle on medium-high heat. Brush one side of each gozleme with oil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until nice brown spots start to appear. Brush uncooked side with remaining oil. Turn over and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove to a serving plate. Cut gozleme into quarters and most important – serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe adapted and photo from