Fruit stew cookie slice: no cane sugar play time food

My eldest son, H, is really into stew. This doesn’t necessarily translate to eating stew (although he is a bit partial to a goulash-style beef casserole) but he is right into the idea of it. He used to like helping me with the baking, but no longer, not unless it involves stew. I think this is because baking really just involves measuring and stirring (for his part), with the occasional egg-cracking. But in his mind, the wonder that is stew involves peeling, chopping, slicing, grating, all of the tough stuff that involves knives and which only big kids can do. Therefore, it is an irresistible proposition for him.

Usually I try to do some sort of cooking activity with H after I put the Bubaloo down for his nap; this gives us about 1.5 hours to do something fun. But lately H has been disinterested in baking with me – I lose out to the iPad (nap time means there is no competition for him). This week, the sound of a knife chopping vegetables was irresistible and it called him to the kitchen. I was preparing ingredients for pea and ham soup (I’ll post that recipe in a separate post, as it’s still on the stove – again, there is a back story), and H came in ‘Mummy, can I make something?’ ‘Sure, what do you want to make?’ ‘Stew!’ ‘Ok. What shall we start with?’ ‘Bananas’… So, it was never going to be an ordinary or traditional type of stew…

Three ripe bananas went into a bowl, then he got out the potato masher to give them a good squash. This kind of worked, but then he decided that stew needed more than one ingredient. ‘Muuummm! It needs apple. I want to squash some apple.’ After explaining that raw apple doesn’t really mash well, we decided to do some peeling and grating. After having an (aborted) attempt at peeling, then instructing me through the grating, followed by stirring the apple and banana together, it was decided that this was too onerous and playing with Lego was a better option. So off he went…

This left me with a quandary: what to do with the apple/banana ‘stew’? And so I decided to try and turn it into something. I just thought I’d experiment with different textures and flavours, with the aim of making something for afternoon tea. About halfway through, I asked H what he felt like: cookies or slice. And so ‘cookie slice’ was born.

I hope you like it. I think it was super delicious when it was warm from the oven, but then my partner came home and scoffed a ton of it after work (when it was cool) so I think it’s good either way. Oh, and the best part? There’s no added sugar!

Fruit stew cookie slice

You will need:

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1 apple, grated (I used a large granny smith)

1 c. rolled oats

1 3/4 c. plain flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 c currants (any dried fruit would do)

1/2 c coconut (I used shaved because that’s all I had)

1/2 c chocolate melts (I used white chocolate; optional or replaceable with dates)

60 g butter

2 tbsp rice malt or maple syrup

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp boiling water

1. Preheat your oven to 180C

2. Put all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and stir in apple and banana. Mix as well as you can – it will probably look a bit clumpy.

3. In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat together with the rice malt syrup. When it’s melted, in a small cup, put bicarb soda then pour over the water. It’ll bubble a bit. Stir it into the butter mix; it will go quite frothy.

4. Stir into the dry ingredients until well combined. If it’s too wet, add a touch more flour.

5. Spoon into a lined slice tray. Smooth over the top.

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6. Bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until it’s brown on top. The inside will stay quite moist because of the high fruit content.

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7. Serve warm or cool.

Finding favour with the family: a pilaf and yoghurt salad

Do you have a recipe that is ‘yours’, at least within your family? Previously, I have written about aunty Ruby’s sponge cake (pure deliciousness!)… As far as my family is concerned (the adult members at least), ‘my’ specialty is a very simple yoghurt ‘salad’ and pilaf. The only catch is that the recipes are actually not mine, insofar as I adapted one from bill granger (pilaf) and was taught the other by a Lebanese friend, G, who learned it from his mum.

The first time I ever tried this yoghurt salad was when G invited us over for an impromptu dinner, about six years ago. One bite and I was done; I think my partner literally licked the bowl clean. It was that good! Fortunately, G is very un-precious when it comes to sharing recipes and so I have been happily making this yoghurt salad, with or without the pilaf, for BBQ dinners, parties, lazy days and picnics ever since.

I’m posting this recipe today specially for my sister, Kristy (of the pesto) and her sister-in-law, Kristal. Both of them love it and so here it is! I hope you and yours love it as much as we do!

Lentil rice pilaf
You will need:
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup du Poy (French green) lentils
1/2 lemon
Water
1 small onion, sliced finely
A good bunch continental (flat leaf) parsley (you will notice that my pilaf is a bit light on green in the photo – it used to be feral in the garden but I think mr whipper snipper got to it 😉

1. In a medium saucepan, place lentils. Cover well with water. Place over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil, and cook for 10-12 mins. Add rice and the lemon. Stir occasionally. You may need to add more water. When it returns to the boil, cook for 12-15 mins or til the lentils are done (not too hard nor too soft; they should be the texture of cooked cashews).
2. In the meantime, fry onions in a touch of olive oil over low heat until the are caramelised (soft and browned but not burnt). Chop the parsley up well – you want a good handful or two-worth.
3. When rice and lentils are cooked, strain and rinse using cool water. Shake off excess water and place in a bowl. Add the onions, parsley and squeeze out the cooked lemon. Stir it well then serve.

This actually makes a huge dish and I find that a half serve is enough for about 5 people. But one of my friends loves this so much, she could possibly eat a half serve in one sitting…

G’s yoghurt salad

Please note that all of the quantities here can easily been adjusted to suit your tastes; these are just guides only.

You will need:
300g Greek yoghurt (I use low fat not no fat; sometimes I use a whole tub of yogurt, other times a half)
1 tsp good quality salt
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of paprika or cumin, ground (we like sweet paprika)
4 tbsp – 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 or so cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp honey
I cucumber, finely chopped (optional – I usually leave it out as my partner doesn’t like it for some strange reason…)

1. In a bowl, mix yoghurt and salt. Add the cucumber here too if you are using it. Smooth over the top.
2. Sprinkle over the paprika or cumin.
3. In a separate bowl or jar, mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and garlic. Stir together to combine. The honey and garlic usually stick together…
4. Spoon the dressing over the top – use as much as you like. Any extra is nice on salad.
Now it’s ready to go! Yummy with meat, vegetables, bread… as well as with the pilaf!

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Midweek dinner: Chinese chicken omelette

We’re coming out of a bout of gastro at our place (is it distasteful to mention that when I’m writing about food? If so, apologies); well, the bubaloo had it and the rest of us fasted in unrealised anticipation. At the same time, the heat wave is continuing, with no end forecast for over a week. When these factors come together on a busy Wednesday evening, finding something for dinner can be challenging. So I turned to an old favourite, Chinese chicken omelette with some wilted vegies on the side. It’s lovely with chicken but that can be replaced by prawns, mushrooms or whatever you feel like.

But first, a bit of reminiscence… When I was doing my phd, there was nothing I liked more than, after a long day in the library or on my computer, hitting the cheap little Asian restaurants in the city. This usually meant Vietnamese pho or today’s recipe. I could walk in, order, and it would be ready within 3 minutes. What more could a tired gal want?

When I finished my studies and had kids, going into the city for quick cheap meals seemed like too much effort; I moved universities and suburbs. So I learned how to make it myself; the pho is still a memory but the omelette gets whipped up from time to time. If you don’t like the idea of this, but like eggs, be adventurous and give it a go – you may be pleasantly surprised!

Chinese chicken omelette

Serves 2-3

You will need:
6 small or 4 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
1.5 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
Sprinkle of pepper
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (left over BBQ chicken is ideal)
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp coriander, chopped
Olive oil
3 tbsp oyster sauce
1.5 tbsp sesame oil

1 cup rice and 1.5 cups water: use together to cook rice using the absorption method (or use a rice cooker!).

1. Beat eggs until combined. Add pepper, soy sauce, most of the spring onions and most of the coriander, leaving a little for garnish. Using a fork, beat together well.
2. Place olive oil in frypan and heat. When it’s hot, pour in egg mix. As the edges become cooked, use a fork to draw the cooked edges toward the middle of the pan and swirl the uncooked egg mix to cover the base if the pan.
3. Sprinkle shredded chicken over the top. Repeat the process to draw the uncooked egg towards the middle until the egg is mostly cooked. When it reaches this point, use an egg flip to fold the omelette in half.
4. Use the egg flip to cut the omelette into parts (one per person), then put it on rice on a plate.
5. In a small bowl, combine sesame oil and oyster sauce. Spoon this over the omelette and garnish with extra coriander. The sauce is really great, so don’t omit it!

wilted vegies
In a heated frypan, add a small amount of olive oil. Add whatever vegetables you like: I used mushroom, rocket, crushed garlic, broccoli and coriander. Stir to cook. If it needs more moisture, add a few tbsp water. When vegies are nearly cooked, stir in 1 tbsp soy sauce and some pepper. Cook for 2 mins then serve.

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What’s in a name? Egg pie (quiche)

My eldest child loves pies. Party pies in particular, but he can generally be tempted by any pie. Quiche, he’s not so keen on. I remember, growing up, that my (boy) cousin used to always sing a country song about how real men don’t eat quiche. Maybe it’s all in the name, ‘quiche’.

Names are important, they attract or repel us. Food names in particular have the capacity for coercion. ‘Jus’ sounds much sexier than ‘gravy’, which you get at the local takeaway joint or at Nana’s (or at my place 😉 . Similarly, ‘salmon’ evokes images of a pinkish orange, juicy, luscious fish, but it’s also a simple, white fleshed fish that you can catch off the Victorian coastline. So, what you call something influences perceptions of it.

Which brings me back to quiche. When I renamed it to ‘egg pie’, a light suddenly went on in h’s eyes. ‘Pie? Can I have some for dinner?’ Ya see what I mean?

The great thing about quiche aka egg pie (QaEP) is that you can customise it however you like. Here I have given you a recipe that could even be considered a frittata as it doesn’t have a crust (I don’t eat wheat and the aim of this is quick/simple/easy, which homemade pastry is not so much). If you want a crust, just line your pan with a sheet of puff pastry before you pour the egg mix in.

Some ways you might wish to adapt this are listed below. But enjoy my QaEP!

QaEP

You will need:
8 eggs
1/2 cup milk
Pepper
Salt (if you must 😉
A good handful of rocket or spinach leaves
Three or four sprigs of mixed herbs, removed from the woody stems (adjust to taste)
1 cup grated cheese
1/2 punnet (or so) cherry tomatoes (I used half a bowl of mixed little tomatoes from the garden), some of which could be cut up

1. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and seasoning til it’s well combined.
2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
3. Pour into a lined 20cm cake tin.
4. Put into an oven preheated to 180C.
5. Bake for 20-25 mins or until the QaEP is cooked through. If you shake the tin, it should wobble a bit but this will be all together, as a whole (ie not ripples!). It should also be nice and brown.
6. Serve with salad / sauce / vegies (depending on who is eating it!)

Some variations:
Caramelised onions / leeks
Leftover roast meat / vegies
Smoked salmon
Ham (as per quiche Lorraine)

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Oh, to be a fish on a (sweltering) day like this: ‘super food’ salad

It’s too hot this week to do much. The garden is full of plants drooping in the heat, no matter that they are well watered. The kids too are drooping in their ability to maintain good humour after being cooped up inside all day (high sunburn risk), no one is sleeping…

The life of a fish is therefore looking pretty appealing: swimming around in the cool water all day and, um, swimming… cool… I can’t think beyond that!

In honour of this heat wave, and because my partner is currently in the midst of a salmon obsession, I whipped the following salad up for dinner tonight. It contains at least three ‘super foods’ but, most importantly, is simple and yummy.

All of the proportions here can be adjusted to taste. I don’t like salty food so next time, I’ll go a bit lighter on the dressing for me, but B and our friend (and tonight’s dinner guest!) T thought this was perfect.

Quinoa and salmon salad

This is a recipe in stages, so I have listed these in order…

1. Cooking the quinoa
1 cup white quinoa
2 cups water
Place quinoa in water in a saucepan over high heat. When the water is boiling, turn to simmer. Cook until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa are soft. Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Spoon into the bottom of a salad bowl

2. Salmon
Salmon cutlets; I had one huge one that was about 500grams
1/8 cup tamari (I like salt-reduced)
3 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sesame oil
In a bowl or jug, mix tamari, mirin and sesame oil together. Season with pepper if you like. Place salmon on a plate or bowl. Pour most of the tamari mic over the salmon, reserving a little bit for later. Let sit for 10 mins or so, then fry covered until cooked; flip and repeat on the second side.

3. The salad ingredients
Cucumber (we used about 10 cm of a continental cucumber), sliced
3 – 4 big handfuls rocket salad mix
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 pomegranate, seeds only
1 punnet or a big handful cherry tomatoes
1/2 cob corn, kernels removed and blanched (just put in a pan and pour over boiling water; give it about a minute then drain)
1 handful green beans, cut into 3 cm lengths (blanch in the same way as corn)
1 baby capsicum, diced roughly

To assemble: put quinoa in bottom of salad bowl then arrange salad ingredients on top. Mix well. Drizzle over the reserved marinade (makes a nice dressing too). Then place pieces of salmon on top. If you have any spare sauce in your frypan, pour it over too.

Yummy! This gave three of us enough for seconds (yes, it really is good!)… Add more of everything to make more. Customise it however you like! Enjoy – and keep cool 😉

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Oh, to be a fish on a (sweltering) day like this: ‘super food’ salad

It’s too hot this week to do much. The garden is full of plants drooping in the heat, no matter that they are well watered. The kids too are drooping in their ability to maintain good humour after being cooped up inside all day (high sunburn risk), no one is sleeping…

The life of a fish is therefore looking pretty appealing: swimming around in the cool water all day and, um, swimming… cool… I can’t think beyond that!

In honour of this heat wave, and because my partner is currently in the midst of a salmon obsession, I whipped the following salad up for dinner tonight. It contains at least three ‘super foods’ but, most importantly, is simple and yummy.

All of the proportions here can be adjusted to taste. I don’t like salty food so next time, I’ll go a bit lighter on the dressing for me, but B and our friend (and tonight’s dinner guest!) T thought this was perfect.

Quinoa and salmon salad

This is a recipe in stages, so I have listed these in order…

1. Cooking the quinoa
1 cup white quinoa
2 cups water
Place quinoa in water in a saucepan over high heat. When the water is boiling, turn to simmer. Cook until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa are soft. Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Spoon into the bottom of a salad bowl

2. Salmon
Salmon cutlets; I had one huge one that was about 500grams
1/8 cup tamari (I like salt-reduced)
3 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sesame oil
In a bowl or jug, mix tamari, mirin and sesame oil together. Season with pepper if you like. Place salmon on a plate or bowl. Pour most of the tamari mic over the salmon, reserving a little bit for later. Let sit for 10 mins or so, then fry covered until cooked; flip and repeat on the second side.

3. The salad ingredients
Cucumber (we used about 10 cm of a continental cucumber), sliced
3 – 4 big handfuls rocket salad mix
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 pomegranate, seeds only
1 punnet or a big handful cherry tomatoes
1/2 cob corn, kernels removed and blanched (just put in a pan and pour over boiling water; give it about a minute then drain)
1 handful green beans, cut into 3 cm lengths (blanch in the same way as corn)
1 baby capsicum, diced roughly

To assemble: put quinoa in bottom of salad bowl then arrange salad ingredients on top. Mix well. Drizzle over the reserved marinade (makes a nice dressing too). Then place pieces of salmon on top. If you have any spare sauce in your frypan, pour it over too.

Yummy! This gave three of us enough for seconds (yes, it really is good!)… Add more of everything to make more. Customise it however you like! Enjoy – and keep cool 😉

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Saturday n breakfast! Quick crepes

There are certain foods that can be had at any time of the day- morning, noon, or night. Sometimes they are sweet, sometimes savoury. Sometimes it depends on where you are (I’m big on the influence of context). After years of loving Nasi Lemak (rice, curry, and condiments) for lunch or dinner at our local curry place, I was awed by the fact you can have it for breakfast, yes breakfast!, in Malaysia. Too good. I went curry-crazy that trip 😉

But I digress… An even more special category of foods includes those that can be eaten any time of day, regardless of context, and can be savoury or sweet. Pancakes, crepes and pikelets fall into this category – and are so simple to make. Here I share my basic pancake batter with you. Want crepes? Add more milk. Want pikelets? More flour. Fritters? Add grated or finely cut vegetables (eg zucchini, corn), cheese (feta is nice), herbs… Whatever you fancy. Flip em out of the pan onto a plate and eat them before they cool!

An out and about suggestion: once you’ve poured your batter into the pan (small disks), sprinkle over some sultanas. When the bubbles appear, flip the pancake til it’s cooked, then take the lot down to the playground for morning tea!

Basic Pancakes
You will need:
1 cup self-raising flour or 1 c plain flour + 1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
1 cup milk (vary depending on what you are hoping to make: pancakes, crepes or pikelets)

1. Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix well.
2. Tip into a jug.
3. Over low-medium heat, heat a frypan. Add a small tsp butter or a spray of oil. Non stick pans don’t really need anything.
4. Pour in the desired amount of batter then lift the pan by the handle, moving the batter around until you have the ideal shape.
5. When bubbles appear on the batter surface and break, it’s time to flip your pancake.
6. Give the second side enough cooking time to brown, then lift into plate. Repeat til the batter has gone.

Sweet topping ideas: lemon and sugar, jam, Nutella, golden or maple syrup, strawberries, any combination of these

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