The devil in the detail

I have a love/hate relationship with people.

They walk slowly and hog the footpath when I’m in a rush. They cause wars and hurt other people for funsies. They’re Delta Goodrem (I hate Delta), or Kony (I’m not comparing the two here), or that guy who kidnapped those girls. People are stupid and frustrating and they drive to slow or hoon-like, and just generally make me want to stay in bed, rather than deal with them.

But then, at the same time, people are remarkable. They perform acts of heroism; they save lives; make my coffee; create good art or are just the kind of people that make your life better, just by being in it.

My real love for people though, lie in their quirks. The little itty things that makes them them. It’s something I got thinking about after reading this story by Sarah Wilson.

I need the volume on an even number. I get a weird amount of joy from measuring ingredients and getting the exact weight I need the first time around. I organise my nail polishes by brand and then colour. Books are by genre. I hate fingerprint smudges on polished surfaces, I’m constantly cleaning the screen on my phone. Towels are straightened. I might have rearranged a whole display of pens in a art supply shop so they were all facing the same way. Collars are either up or down – I used to chase down my school friends if it was half up/down, and I’ve caught myself reaching to fix the collars of strangers on the street, before realising that it’s weird. I even fell catastrophically, struck-by-lightning in love with my last boyfriend while watching him eat ice cream in neat rows. Yes, my OCD extends to other people.

As a kid, we argued the order in which you eat the various things on your plate. My dad and I are ‘save the best for last’ kinds of people, while my mum fears that she’ll run out of room before she gets to the good stuff, and thus miss out. I mean, if I had to put it in order, it’s brussel sprouts, pumpkin, broccoli, peas, mashed potato and then meat. Because I really hate brussel sprouts, and spend the rest of my dinner trying to wash my mouth out with better tasting stuff.

The good news with this dinner is, there’s none of that. Everything is really good, and you don’t have to pick out anything. It’s also ridiculously quick, full of good, filling stuff and can be done in one pot. You’re welcome.

 

Spanish prawns with spicy lentils

From Delicious Magazine

1 tbs olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 chorizo sausage, chopped
1 tbs harissa
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g cans brown lentils, rinsed, drained
220g jar roasted red capsicums, drained, sliced
1 cup (250ml) chicken stock or water
500g peeled prawns (tails intact)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Crusty bread and mixed salad leaves, to serve

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of oil. Add the chorizo and onion, cooking until the chorizo crisps and the onions soften. Add the harissa paste, and cook for a minute, until fragrant. Throw in the lentils, tomatoes, capsicum and stock, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until thickened.

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Add the prawns to the pan, then cover and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the prawns are done.

Add the parsley, and serve with bread.

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All killer, no filler

As I’m typing, it’s raining. This makes me extraordinarily happy. I might have wasted absolutely no time wriggling into a pair of track pants and a hoodie, though I’m having a little trouble finding my knitted socks. All in good time, I suppose. Of course, with the sudden influx of wet and cold comes the need for wintery foods. Cravings wait for no man, and I wasn’t really surprised when I discovered no less than 4 friends delving into soup territory in this same afternoon. Beetroot, pumpkin, pea and ham… My contribution to the souptivities, was carrot.

I know. Carrots, right? Possibly the least exciting of all the vegetables. They’re filler veggies, to bulk up salad or add colour, but not distract from the hero of the dish, whatever it may be. Who goes out of their way for carrots? No one. Why would you?

Here’s what happened. The downside to living in a share house is the double ups. Wade peered into the fridge last week and noted that between the three of us, we’d accumulated 3 kilos of carrots.  What the hell  do you do with three kilos of carrots? Admittedly, he made some amazing carrot muffins, but that only knocked it down to 2.5 kilos. Juicing? That got us down to 1.5 kilos. Hummus dippers took care of half a kilo. And so here we are. Sunday, and soup. Waste not, want not, right?

I know I ask you to trust me regularly. And you’re still here, so thank you for humoring me so far. But for old times sake, trust me on this. I know it looks like baby food, and probably as appetizing. Holy jeebus, this is really, really tasty. Cumin, turmeric and coriander are regularly seen kicking about in Indian recipes and they really shine here. The addition of chorizo is inspired, because who doesn’t love chorizo? All in all, you might just be looking at your new favourite winter soup. Yeah, I went there.

Carrot & Chorizo Soup

From Delicious Magazine

30g unsalted butter
1 tbs olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 tsp cumin seeds
1kg carrots, chopped
1.25L (5 cups) chicken stock
1 tbs lemon juice
150g chorizo, finely chopped
Handful of coriander leaves, to serve
 

Preheat your oven to 220*c. Roughly chop the carrots to even sized chunks. Place in a roasting pan, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes until softened.

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In a large saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter and oil together. Gently cook the onion and garlic until soft, then add the ground coriander, turmeric and 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds until fragrant.

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Add the carrot to the pot, stirring to coat with the spices. Pop on the lid and soften for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrot is soft.

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Once cooled slightly, blend with a stick blender. Stir in the lemon juice.

In a frying pan, add the chorizo and last of the cumin seeds, stirring until crisp. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the lemon while cooking.

Split the soup between bowls and top with chorizo and coriander.

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As an FYI, you don’t have to roast the carrots first, you can just throw them in raw if you don’t have time. But I like the sweeter flavour that you get from roasting first.

Spring! Sprang! Sprung!

It’s OFFICIALLY Spring. I know it’s still raining, but it’s ok. Before long, there will be deliciously sun dappled days for frolicking in fields, dusting off your nautical themed pashmina afghan for a jaunty sail on one’s yacht… Ok, yes, I’ve been watching too much TV. So, no one actually does those kinds of activities. But you know what? I think people should.

Weekends are usually spent running around, frantically playing Life Catch Up. Cleaning, shopping, running around. I vote that you spend one day doing something ridiculously, frivolously fun. For no reason other than you can, and why the hell not?

My awesome friend Jacqui from Where the Wind Blows Her has decided to do one new thing every month, and I’m 100% on board. I’m thinking trapezing, running around in the mud, sailing and mazes. I’m also planning on packing a picnic, a blanket, a really good book and going to lie in the sun (always with sunscreen, peeps) and just chillaxin’. Because doing nothing is good for the soul too.

The Urban Locavore box this month contained some beautiful potatoes and chorizo from Mondo’s. I couldn’t resist this savoury slice I found on the Fitness for Foodies blog, it’s practically good for you! It’s a great breakfast/lunch/on the go/picnic snack. I made it as a welcome home fridge-filler for my parents who had been away from a week – Frankie ate a third of it in a sitting.

Chorizo & Potato Bake

From Equilibre

2 chorizo sausages
4 large potatoes, peeled
1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 bunch spinach
200g plain feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino or parmesan
4 free range, organic eggs
250 mls single cream
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Italian parsley, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C.

Thinly slice chorizo and cook in a medium sized fry pan for 2 mins each side until browned. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Cut potatoes and sweet potato in half and place in a large saucepan of cold, salted water. Bring to boil and cook for 8-10 mins until just tender. Drain, cool and slice in to rounds.

Blanch the spinach in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 30 seconds and drain well.

Layer a third of the potatoes in the base of a greased 23cm springform tin lined with non stick paper. Layer spinach and chorizo, sprinkling cheese between each layer, and finishing with potato.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper and pour over potatoes. Finish with a sprinkling of parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins. Remove foil and bake for a further 50 mins until set and golden.

Sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley before serving.

Learning to juggle

I take my hat off to multi taskers. I know there’s supposed to be a female genetic requirement for me to be able to juggle several things at once, but I can’t.

First of all, I can’t juggle. It’s far to advanced for my very basic coordination levels. I barely manage patting my head and rubbing my tummy. Second, I have a short attention span, and a goldfish-like short term memory. I get distracted by the second task, then forget the first one all together. Cue things burning, overflowing and just generally going to crap. I’m not kidding, I wanted to add roasted tomatoes to this recipe. Put them in the oven, set about preparing the rest of the meal. Promptly forgot about the tomatoes.

This happened.

I threw out the baking dish.

So when I stumbled upon a recipe that is both delicious and healthy, I couldn’t help but give it a whirl. There is no way to lose with this recipe. It’s steak. It’s salad. It’s yummy. It’s sneakily good for you. It’s easy. It’s fast. IT’S EVERYTHING I COULD EVER ASK FOR. I find straight-up salads so unsatisfying, so if there’s a way you can make one that fills me up, I tip my hat to you. Use it to trick your men folk! Children! Ok, perhaps chorizo isn’t terribly good for you, but given the rest is, I figure it balances out… Right? Guys?

Balsamic Beef & Chickpea Salad

From Donna Hay

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon horseradish cream
2 1/1 tablespoons olive oil
2 chorizo, sliced
800g beef fillet steak
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
100g baby spinach leaveds
1 cup mint leaves

Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, horseradish and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat half a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the chorizo and cook until golden, a couple of minutes each side. Set aside on kitchen paper.

Season the steak on both sides and cook, turning frequently, for 15 minutes or cooked to your liking. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then slice.

Add the chickpeas to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes until golden.

Toss together the chickpeas, chorizo, spinach and mint. Add balsamic dressing and toss to coat.

Serve with sliced steak on top of salad.

Leaves and Autumn and Pie! Oh My!

I’m beginning to get what people see in Autumn.

I didn’t really get it at first, it was this kind of nothing season before all that beautiful winter rain kicks in. I’m a fan of lounge room fort building, weekends in pajamas and jumping in puddles. At least I would be, except every time I wistfully proclaim that I want a pair of wellies, Wade says no. Totally not a team player.

Taken out the front of work last week…

But this Autumn thing has stuff going for it. I’m beginning to enjoy the briskness in the evenings (not in the morning. Makes it hard to get out of bed, thus making me late for work. Sorry, Boss), but still warm in the middle of the day. Pretty things to wear in the shops. Boots. Adding blankets. Changing colours on leaves. It’s all rather lovely, when you think about it.

The other good thing is, of course, the change in the kinds of food you’re craving. It’s a little less of the clean, light flavours, they start to deepen, become richer. Slow cookers are being dusted off, shanks and roasts are being purchased, robust flavours are starting to take over.

I set about this evening to make pie. Who doesn’t love pie? They’re both big and little, sweet and savoury. There’s no flaw here, only pie-filled winning. Huzzah. The best part about this one is that it’s ‘free form’. Calling something free form, or ‘rustic’, is the fancy, foodie way of saying that we can’t be arsed making it look perfect. This is a win for you playing at home because it means you don’t have to learn some ridiculous presentation technique. However it comes together for you, that’s how it’s meant to look. Run with it.

The flavours here aren’t complex, nor do they have that winter heaviness. The herbs are perfect companions for chicken, and the chorizo kicks it up a notch. The perfect stepping stone for the winter yet to come.

Chicken, Chorizo & Potato Pie

From Australian Good Taste Magazine

400g potatoes, cut into 4cm pieces
2 tsp olive oil
500g chicken thighs, diced
1 chorizo, sliced
1 leek, trimmed, thinly sliced
2 sprigs frest thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemart, leaves picked
2 sheets puff pastry
1 egg, whisked

1) Place the potatoes in a pot of boiling water. Cook until just tender, drain and refresh in cold water.

2) While the potatoes boil, heat the oil in a fry pan. Brown the chicken in batches for a couple of minutes. Set the chicken aside in a large mixing bowl. Cook the chorizo for a couple of minutes each side, until golden. Throw the leek, rosemary and thyme into the pan and stir until the leek softens. Add the potatoes and cook for 1 minute, stirring to combine all the ingredients. Add the leek and chorizo mix to the chicken, season with pepper and combine. Set aside to cool a little, about 30 minutes.

3) Heat the oven to 200*c. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place one sheet of pastry on the tray, and spoon half of the mixture into the middle, leaving a border of about an inch. Fold up the sides around the mixture and brush the edges with egg yolk. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry.

4) Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Note: Only brown the chicken, it will finish cooking in the oven. I’d recommend chicken thighs over breast, as the breast dries out pretty quickly. Be generous with herbs, as always. I also threw in a handful of mushrooms, just because I had them and I could.

What do you love about Autumn? Or are you not a fan?

Winter is coming

And then that day came that we were all simultaneously expecting and dreading.

Winter is upon us. The cold, the rain, the frosts. Gone are Perth’s beautiful long summer nights, and we welcome the excuse to bundle up and hibernate. Bears have the right idea, with their carb loading and epic nap schedule.

Dinners are turning from grilled meats and fresh salads, to slow cooked delights heartier feasts. Stews, roasts, casseroles and soups are all the order of the season and the season’s vegetables are the best place to showcase winter’s flavours.

My favourite corner of the earth at the moment is the Subiaco Farmers Markets, held every Saturday morning from 8am until noon. Fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, pastries… Basically, if you’re into food (and real food), you needn’t set foot in Coles or Woolworths again. I’m sure I don’t need to tell how that that’s a good thing. Everything is local, fresh and good. Oh, and did I mention cheap?

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I couldn’t resist all the beautiful winter vegetables that were starting to appear in the stalls. Organic tinned vegetables stood in for the things I couldn’t buy; Maggie Beer’s chicken stock actually contains chicken. I make a point of saying this, because many stocks don’t contain the things you’d think they would. All of these beautiful ingredients were going to combine into the perfect winter soup, filling, nutritious and not overly liquidy because I can’t be trusted not to spill it.

Chunky chorizo, chicken and vegetable soup

Adapted from Gourmet Traveller

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 onions, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 potatoes, diced
1 chorizo, diced
4 free-range chicken thigh fillets diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
400g can chopped tomatoes
750 ml chicken stock
1 cup rigatoni or other small pasta
1 cup green peas
2 zucchini, cut into 1cm dice
400g can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
50g spinach leaves
1 tbsp finely chopped basil leaves
finely grated parmesan

1) Over medium to high heat, warm olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan. Add onion, carrot and cook for 10 minutes, softening. Throw in chorizo, chicken and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until chicken changes colour.

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2) Add tomato and stock to the mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste Bring to the boil then reduce to medium. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

3) Add the pasta, zucchini beans peas. Increase the temperature to medium-high and cook, covered, for 10-12 minutes.

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4) Remove from heat and add the spinach, basil and remaining olive oil. Serve with grated parmesan and a good crusty sourdough.

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